Born in Ashtabula, Ohio, Charles Burchfield remained attached to this region, growing up in Salem, Ohio, and settling permanently in Buffalo, New York, in 1921. Burchfield's career was devoted to painting the small towns, industrial cities, and rolling hills of the Midwest.
Nature was a lasting source of wonder for Burchfield. His earliest works, such as Rail Fence, express his delight in the sights and sounds of quiet woodlands. Burchfield's technique was to sketch in pencil and add watercolor later. At this time, he also created fantastic landscapes in which houses, clouds, and flowers look like creatures in a strange dream.
Burchfield then turned to realistic paintings of worn-down buildings and grimy streets in midwestern towns. Reflecting nostalgia for times past, these paintings portray a disillusioned America facing hard times. Like those of his contemporary, Edward Hopper, Burchfield's images won praise for capturing the spirit of America. In 1943 Burchfield returned to nature as his subject, creating imaginary landscapes that celebrate the seasons and the miracle of growth.
[This is an excerpt from the interactive companion program to the videodisc American Art from the National Gallery of Art. Produced by the Department of Education Resources, this teaching resource is one of the Gallery's free-loan educational programs.]