• American Art auction at Christies

    Sale 2602

    American Art

    28 November 2012, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 12

    Charles Ephraim Burchfield (1893-1967)

    Golden Dream

    Price Realised  


    Charles Ephraim Burchfield (1893-1967)
    Golden Dream
    signed with monogram and dated 'CEB/1959' (lower right)--inscribed with title (on the reverse)
    watercolor and pencil on paper laid down on board
    32¾ x 39¾ in. (83.2 x 101 cm.)

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    After 1943, Charles Burchfield returned to the fantastical, spiritually charged depictions of nature that had dominated his early career. These mature works are more dramatic than their earlier counterparts and this period is widely considered Burchfield's most successful. Executed in 1959, Golden Dream is a triumphant example of these watercolors and a radiant composition rife with the sounds and sensations of a warm afternoon.

    Golden Dream manifests the dialogue between physical and emotional states that is a leitmotif of Burchfield's oeuvre. The artist had a particular affinity for changing weather patterns and developed a sensitivity to the mercurial conditions outside his door. He sought not only to depict the physical changes taking place outside, but also to convey the sounds and moods that accompanied those tempestuous transitions. In the present work he captures both his sensory and spiritual response to the landscape as well as its inherent life force. One can almost feel the subtle movement of the butterflies' wings as they sit perched in the large tree in the foreground. The warm sun bathes the field and nurtures the grass and flowers and the entire composition is aglow with energy.

    To create this effect so successfully, Burchfield developed a technique during this period that utilized small repetitive brushstrokes and intense colors. Matthew Baigell remarks, "They gave, in more purely pictorial form, an overall pulsating quality to the paintings. With pigment and brushstroke rather than with identifying detail, Burchfield sought the forces of nature as they coursed through all things. With few distractions, he let the sky, the plants, and the earth throb with equal intensity... Using this technique, Burchfield painted atmosphere as if it had density. Depending on tones and colors, he could suggest the look and feeling of a hot, humid day or the frenzied moments of a snowstorm. He could keep butterflies and other insects in constant motion, as if they were intoxicated, he once said, 'by the sheer ecstasy of existence.'" (M. Baigell, Charles Burchfield, New York, 1976, p. 170) In Golden Dream Burchfield combines his mature technique with his overarching vision of nature to create the glorious sensory experience that is characteristic of his best work.


    The artist.
    [With]Frank K.M. Rehn Galleries, New York.
    Private collection.
    James and Merle Goodman, Buffalo, New York.
    James Goodman Gallery, Buffalo, New York.
    Acquired by the present owner from the above.

    Pre-Lot Text



    J.S. Trovato, Charles Burchfield: Catalogue of Paintings in Public and Private Collections, Utica, New York, 1970, pp. 276-77, no. 1185, illustrated.
    Whitney Museum of American Art, Charles Burchfield: A Concentration of Works from the Permanent Collection of the Whitney Museum of American Art, exhibition catalogue, New York, 1980, pp. 29, 32, illustrated.
    J.B. Townsend, An American Visionary: Watercolors and Drawings of Charles E. Burchfield, exhibition catalogue, Boston, Massachusetts, 1986, n.p., no. 35.
    G. Davenport, Charles Burchfield's Seasons, San Francisco, California, 1994, n.p., fig. 33, illustrated.
    N.V. Maciejunes, M.D. Hall, The Paintings of Charles Burchfield: North by Midwest, exhibition catalogue, New York, 1997, p. 181, no. 59, illustrated.


    Buffalo, New York, State University College, Upton Hall Gallery, Charles Burchfield: Recent Paintings, April 24-May 19, 1963.
    Louisville, Kentucky, University of Louisville Library, Allen R. Hite Art Institute, December 6, 1964-January 9, 1965.
    Tucson, Arizona, The University of Arizona Art Gallery, Charles Burchfield, His Golden Year: A Retrospective Exhibition of Watercolors, Oils and Graphics, November 14, 1965-January 9, 1966.
    Utica, New York, Munson-Williams-Proctor Institute, The Nature of Charles Burchfield: A Memorial Exhibition, April 9-May 31, 1970.
    New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, Charles Burchfield: A Concentration of Works from the Permanent Collection of the Whitney Museum of American Art, June 25-August 17, 1980.
    Boston, Massachusetts, Library of the Boston Athenaeum, and elsewhere, An American Visionary: Watercolors and Drawings of Charles E. Burchfield, March 20-May 16, 1986, no. 35.
    San Francisco, California, The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, 20th Century Drawings from the Whitney Museum, January 16-May 22, 1988.
    Columbus, Ohio, Columbus Museum of Art, and elsewhere, The Paintings of Charles Burchfield: North by Midwest, March 23-May 18, 1997.