Editor's note: The Burchfield-Penney Art Center provided source material to Resource Library for the following article or essay. If you have questions or comments regarding the source material, please contact the Burchfield-Penney Art Center directly through either this phone number or web address:


Charles Burchfield Center 40th Anniversary Exhibition

November 4, 2006 - May 13, 2007


Approaching its fortieth anniversary year, the Burchfield-Penney Art Center has served as the only museum devoted to the art and vision of Charles Ephraim Burchfield. It is a little known fact that at first Burchfield declined the offer to have a museum dedicated in his name, as he felt it would be "a great honoras a sort of Memorial," but it did not "seem appropriate for a living artist to be so honored." However, friendly, yet persistent persuasion on behalf of Dr. Paul G. Bulger, president of the college, convinced Burchfield to accept the honor. Dr. Bulger worked closely with a small group of people to create the museum in space in Rockwell Hall that had originally housed the campus library, approximately 30 by 90 feet in size, with 14-foot high ceilings. The seven founders were:

Dressed in a tuxedo, Charles Burchfield cut the ribbon officially opening the Charles Burchfield Center on December 9, 1966. He was joined by his wife, Bertha and other members of their family, to celebrate with friends from the campus, community, and government in the festive event. President Bulger welcomed the Burchfields and special guests and read two letters of congratulations that were sent by Roger L. Stevens, on behalf of United States President Lyndon B. Johnson, and Nelson A. Rockefeller, Governor of New York State. Those letters were printed in the inaugural catalogue, as well as sentiments by Dr. Bulger, Gordon Smith, and John I. H. Baur, who at the time was Associate Director of the Whitney Museum of American Art.

Dr. Bulger announced D. Kenneth Winebrenner as Chairman of the Burchfield Center Committee and Edna M. Lindemann as Curator. To his amusement, after Dr. Bulger introduced Charles Burchfield, the artist playfully chided him for not knowing the difference between a flicker and a woodpecker-the kind of humorous remark that illustrated the depth of their friendship. After Burchfield's comments, they were joined by Donald Voltz in presenting the first copy of the December Storm poster to Joan and Peter Andrews, who had generously donated the Burchfield painting to the college in 1964. December Storm became the cornerstone of the Burchfield Collection which has since grown to enormous proportions. In addition, the Charles E. Burchfield Archives contains literally thousands of drawings and seminal texts that make the Burchfield-Penney Art Center the national study center for research on the artist.

At the opening, Dr. Bulger then presented December Storm reproductions to Charles and Bertha Burchfield, their daughter Martha Burchfield Richter, Charles' sister Louise Burchfield, members of the Foundation Board of Trustees, and Burchfield Center Committee members. He ended his remarks with the idea to plan for future development of Rockwell Hall as a performing and visual arts center. This concept not only came to pass, but has grown so substantially that the Burchfield-Penney Art Center has begun construction of a new building to serve the public even better.

The inaugural exhibition in 1966 featured eighteen Burchfield masterworks. Two of these great paintings, Afternoon Wind (1964) and Fireflies and Lightning (1964/65), have been acquired for the museum's collection. Afternoon Wind was presented as a gift from Hodgson, Russ, Andrews, Woods and Goodyear, in memory of Ruth Millet Goodyear in 1976. The winning auction bid for Fireflies and Lightning, whose last owners were Julie Andrews and Blake Edwards, was made possible with funds from M&T Bank, an anonymous donor, William P. and A. Laura Brosnahan, the Vogt Family Foundation and the Margaret L. Wendt Foundation in 1998. These paintings, as well as drawings for Fireflies and Lightning that were donated by Charles Burchfield, and a third inaugural painting, Sparrow Hawk Weather (1960/65), which is now in the Spiro Family Collection, will be featured in an anniversary exhibition celebrating the forty year history of our unique museum.

Much to the shock of family and friends, Burchfield died suddenly of a heart attack just a month and a day after the museum's inauguration. Since then scores of people have banded together to develop the fledgling museum into a nationally recognized institution, accredited by the American Association of Museums. This exhibition is meant to honor the countless people who have worked as volunteers and employees over the past forty years to make the Burchfield-Penney Art Center a vibrant museum. We think Burchfield himself would be proud.


(above: Charles E. Burchfield (1893-1967), Fireflies and Lightning, (1964)-1965, Watercolor, graphite and white conté crayon with masking tape on paper. Collection of the Burchfield-Penney Art Center. Purchase made possible with funds from M&T Bank, the Margaret L. Wendt Foundation, the Vogt Family Foundation, William and Laurie Brosnahan, an anonymous foundation, and an anonymous donor, 1998)


(above: Charles E. Burchfield (1893-1967), December Storm, 1941-60, Watercolor, charcoal and white conté crayon on seamed paper. Collection of the Burchfield-Penney Art Center. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Peter C. Andrews, 1964)


(above: Charles E. Burchfield (1893-1967), Sparrow Hawk Weather, (1960) 1965, Watercolor and charcoal on seamed paper. Spiro Family Collection)


(above: Charles E. Burchfield, Afternoon Wind, 1964, watercolor on paper, 37 13/16 x 28 3/4 inches. Collection of the Burchfield-Penney Art Center, Gift of Hodgson, Russ, Andrews, Woods and Goodyear, In memory of Ruth Millet Goodyear, 1976)

Editor's note: RL readers may also enjoy

Read more articles and essays concerning this institutional source by visiting the sub-index page for the Burchfield - Penney Art Center in Resource Library.

TFAO also suggests these DVD or VHS videos:

Charles E. Burchfield's World is a 28 minute L&S video created and produced by Linda Freeman and written and directed by David Irving, ISBN 1-882660-23-4. Share an insider's look at the life and art of Charles E. Burchfield, one of the greatest American painters. He developed his own private vocabulary of brushstrokes to convey nature's most delicate moods. "As an artist it is impossible for me to imagine anything better or more beautiful than painting this world." This documentary shows a visionary painter's life and journey that transcends reality into something extraordinary.

TFAO does not maintain a lending library of videos or sell videos. Click here for information on how to borrow or purchase copies of VHS videos and DVDs listed in TFAO's Videos -DVD/VHS, an authoritative guide to videos in VHS and DVD format.

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