The Cleveland Museum of Art

Collection Online as of February 17, 2018

The Sun Through the Trees, 1917

watercolor, Sheet: 51.4 x 36.2 cm (20 3/16 x 14 1/4 in.). Hinman B. Hurlbut Collection 804.1930

Burchfield described 1917—when he painted The
Sun Through the Trees and a series of visionary
watercolors—as a “miraculous year.” He frequently
surrounded trees, stars, suns, plants, and insects
with symbolic “notations,” or abstract decorative
shapes and rhythmic patterns that expand like
waves of heat or music. In his private journals,
Burchfield indicated that one of the principal aims
of his art was to evoke sensations of emotion and
sound. The focus of this painting, the sun seen
through trees, suggests a metaphor for spiritual
ecstasy. Trees in Burchfield’s paintings often assume
anthropomorphic qualities, as if personifying
absent figures. The lone tree is often interpreted
as a surrogate for the artist himself. Extremely
shy and socially inhibited, Burchfield felt most
comfortable when convening with nature by himself,
like this isolated tree standing stiffly erect under a
blazing sun.

Cleveland, Ohio: The Cleveland Museum of Art; March 28 - July 18, 2004. "Burchfield to Schreckengost: Cleveland Art of the Jazz Age", no exhibition catalogue.

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Library materials about Charles Burchfield (62)

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