To me, the artist, interested chiefly in weather—all weather is beautiful, and full of powerful motion.
(Charles E. Burchfield, 1943)
Opening September 16, 2017 at the Montclair Art Museum (MAM), Charles E. Burchfield: Weather Event is an exhibition of more than 40 of the renowned artist’s lyrical landscape watercolors and drawings that trigger the memories and moods inspired by weather and climate change. His works invite the viewer to experience through the artist’s eyes the environments in Ohio and New York south of Lake Erie. The exhibition will be on view through January 7, 2018.
Individual weather events are examined through both an artistic and a scientific lens. Weather refers to the state of the atmosphere for a given time and place, while climate is the sum of weather events that describes a place or region. Burchfield’s works capture both, with “all day sketches” conveying snapshots of past weather on specific days as well as later watercolors painted over a number of years conveying the character of a place.
The exhibition is organized around themes that inspired Burchfield: the sky, changing seasons, haloed moons, sunbursts and cloudbursts, heat waves, and wild weather. The works convey the artist’s emotional responses to the weather and his desire to portray the invisible aspects of nature, such as sounds and heat waves, by means of visible signs and symbols.
Charles E. Burchfield (1893–1967) was one of the great visionary modern painters of the 20th century. Burchfield started his artistic career at the Cleveland School of the Arts in 1915. His artistic influences include the stylized, simplified forms and vibrant colors in Japanese prints by Hokusai and Hiroshige, Chinese scroll paintings, and Cleveland modernists Henry Keller and William Sommer. Moving to Buffalo in 1921, Burchfield’s foray into realism at this time was inspired by what he saw as the uniquely American aspects and romantic picturesque qualities of Buffalo and its environs. In the 1940s, Burchfield returned to more abstract forms of his earlier landscapes, following this artistic vision until the end of his life.
This exhibition was organized by The Burchfield Penney Art Center at Buffalo State College, Buffalo, NY. It was curated by Tullis Johnson, curator and manager of archives at The Burchfield Penney Art Center, and Dr. Stephen Vermette, climatologist and professor in the Department of Geography and Planning at Buffalo State College. It is arranged at the Montclair Art Museum by Gail Stavitsky, MAM chief curator.