Charles E. Burchfield (1893–1967) reverently captured the awe-filled grandeur of nature, along with the fierce, deceptive beauty of the industries that threatened it. Blistering Vision: Charles E. Burchfield’s Sublime American Landscapes brings together sketches and paintings of the New York landscape and turn of the century industry. Because he was committed to capturing both, Burchfield’s paintings of nature and industry form a bridge between the 19th-century aesthetics and the emergence of the environmental movement.
The 19th century was a time of change throughout America. The 20th century arrived with even more radical changes to the agricultural landscape, and the young Burchfield was a witness. Burchfield manages to communicate the tension between the excitement of progress and stimulus of new jobs and the loss of the natural pastoral environment at a time when conservation was not part of the cultural conversation.
As a young man, Burchfield was inspired by the works of naturalists Henry Wordsworth Longfellow (1807-1882) and Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862). Ultimately, he expressed his appreciation for nature through paintings, but his journals reflect his continued interest in environmental writing. This exhibition includes journal pages and sketches to give a complete picture of Burchfield’s drive to inspire reverence of the natural world.
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