Charles Ephraim Burchfield (1893-1967)
Charles Ephraim Burchfield (1893-1967)

Dusty Road in July

Charles Ephraim Burchfield (1893-1967)
Dusty Road in July
signed with initials in monogram and dated 'CEB/1952-58' (lower left)--dated again and inscribed with title twice (on the reverse)
watercolor and charcoal on joined paper laid down on board
34 ¾ x 50 in. (88.3 x 127 cm.)
Executed in 1952-58.
Mrs. Charles E. Burchfield, wife of the artist.
Mrs. Louise Ritter, Kansas City, Missouri, by 1970.
By descent to the present owner.
R.M. Coates, "The Art Galleries; The Whitney Annual," The New Yorker, November 29, 1958, p. 171.
The Artist's Journals, January 31, 1963.
J.S. Trovato, Charles Burchfield: Catalogue of Paintings in Public and Private Collections, Utica, New York, 1970, pp. 272-73, no. 1167, illustrated.
C.L. Makowski, Charles Burchfield: An Annotated Bibliography, Lanham, Massachusetts, 1996, p. 97, no. 844.
New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, Annual Exhibition of Sculpture, Paintings, Watercolors and Drawings, November 19, 1958-January 4, 1959, no. 58, illustrated.
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, 154th Annual Exhibition of Watercolors, Prints and Drawings, January 25-March 1, 1959.
Clinton, New York, Hamilton College, Edward W. Root Art Center, Paintings by Charles E. Burchfield, May 13-June 10, 1962, no. 35.
Buffalo, New York, State University College, Upton Hall Gallery, Charles Burchfield: Recent Paintings, April 24-May 19, 1963, p. 12, no. 20.

Lot Essay

It is no coincidence that the titles of Charles Burchfield’s works, including Dusty Road in July, often reference a specific season or time of day, or even exact dates of the year. “Nature is never still, never quiet, never lit by the sun with a sameness that lasts a second,” (G. Davenport, Burchfield’s Seasons, San Francisco, California, 1994, p. xi) and as a life-long student and admirer of nature, Burchfield’s watercolors reflect a deep understanding and love of the ever-changing landscape. His works uniquely capture the whole essence of an environment, not only the visual aspects but also the feel of the air, the sound of the wind in the trees, the smell of the blossoming flowers. His pictures come alive through his expressive brushwork and style, inviting the viewer to re-experience the dry heat of summer or the mysterious sounds of an autumn night under the full moon. Matthew Baigell describes, "One sees trees, insects, and birds; feels the wind; and hears the forest sounds. Each of these elements is isolated, experienced for a few moments, and then mixed with the other elements. The time sequences for each are then stretched out and simultaneously intensified and presented as if they all occurred as Burchfield was able to respond to them at a single instant." (Charles Burchfield, New York, 1976, p. 175).

In the colorful and expressive Dusty Road in July, the ‘single instant’ depicted is a mid-summer day along an isolated country road dotted with flowers and leading to houses in the distance, yet otherwise devoid of activity. The scene evokes drought days in summer when the oppressive heat and humidity seems on the verge of downpour but for now all remains quiet and covered in dust. The trees and grass remain green, but hints of yellow suggest the scorch of the summer sun. The sky shimmers with curvy shapes of blue, gray and white, seeming to radiate around the anthropomorphic forms of the drooping trees and shuffling grasses. This technique of repetitive line work in intense colors is key to the synesthetic, fantastical effect of Burchfield’s landscapes. Baigell explains that the “myriad small strokes…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.” (M. Baigell, Charles Burchfield, p. 170)

In Dusty Road in July, Burchfield combines his mature technique with his overarching vision of nature to create the glorious sensory experience of a specific moment in time that is characteristic of his best work.

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