Burchfield-Penney Art Center Purchases Major Work of Namesake
M & T Bank provided the lead gift that allowed the Burchfield-Penney Art Center at Buffalo State College to acquire a very significant work by watercolorist Charles E. Burchfield (1893-1967), the Center's namesake.
Fireflies and Lightning, formerly owned by Julie Andrews and Blake Edwards, is an extraordinary example of the artist's later works. The 40 x 54 inch watercolor dates from 1964-65 and was painted in Gardenville, New York where the artist and his family lived.
The work was purchased for $300,000 at an auction of American paintings held at Sotheby's in New York City on May 20, 1998. The acquisition was made possible with generous support from members ofthe Western New York private sector, which rallied to support this important effort. Funds were raised in less than two weeks from the Center's closest friends, benefactors, and trustees. M & T Bank made a lead gift of $100,000 and facilitated a gift of $50,000 from an anonymous foundation. Additional support came from the Margaret L. Wendt Foundation, Peter and Mary Lou Vogt, and William and Laurie Brosnahan. James Goodman of the James Goodman Gallery in New York City assisted the Center in making the purchase, providing his services without charge.
Peter Fleischmann, chairman of the Center's Council, said, "All of us associated with the Center are excited that an artistic masterpiece will be returning to Western New York. This signals our strong commitment to the work of Charles E. Burchfield and to strengthening our nationally recognized collection."
Ted Pietrzak, director of the Center, said, "We are elated that such an important work has come to the collection. This is the most significant purchase of art made in the history of the Center and reflects a major advance in the development of this museum as a national center. It adds to the strength and importance of our Burchfield holdings, which have come primarily from private donations. Building a collection is dependent on the generosity of donors who not only contribute funds, as they have for this purchase, but also donate paintings, drawings, prints, journals, and other archival material, particularly Dr. Charles Rand Penney, who made a landmark gift of 183 works by Burchfield in 1994. All of these generous donations have helped to make this museum the most important center for the study of Burchfreld."
Buffalo State College President Muriel A. Moore noted, "We are delighted to add this important painting to the world's most comprehensive collection of Burchfield's work. We are proud that this painting will be available for the public to view in Burchfield's home community."
The Center holds the world's largest Burchfield collection, comprised of 681 art works that comprehensively represent the artist's career through paintings, drawings, doodles, prints, wallpapers, and commercial designs. Seventy-one masterworks of the collection are currently being toured nationally by the American Federation of Arts in Life Cycles: The Charles E. Burchfield Collection, organized by the Center. The Burchfield Archives are used extensively by researchers and scholars from around the world.
Fireflies and Llightning will be exhibited at the Center during the summer with contextual work and six studies for the painting. The studies were donated by the artist in 1967. The exhibition date will be announced soon. Currently, visitors to the Center can enjoy other works from the Burchfield Collection and other temporary and permanent exhibitions.
"Fireflies and Llightningis a superb example of Burchfield's transcendent landscapes," Nancy Weekly, Charles Cary Rumsey Curator and director of the curatorial department, noted. "He has captured the essence of a summer evening with an accurate transcription of the subtle muting of colors as the sun begins to fade, while at the same time he has transformed familiar details with a discriminating measure of fantasy and abstraction. Glowing fireflies and twinkling stars rhythmically animate the twilight landscape with magic, as if seen through a child's eyes." Weekly continued, "
The painting is a vital addition to the Center's collection, joining other important later works such as December Storm (1941-1960), The Moth and The Thunderclap (1961), Oncoming Spring (1954), Solitude (1918-1963), and Wind-Blown Asters (1951). It was among the significant paintings Burchfield chose for the inaugural exhibition of the Burchfield Center, launched on December 9, 1966."
From top to bottom: Fireflies and Llightning , 1964-5, watercolor, 40 x 54 inches; Oncoming Spring ,1954, watercolor, 30 x 40 inches; Solitude ,1918-1963, watercolor and charcoal on paper, 42 x 60 inches; Wind-Blown Asters ,1951, watercolor, 30 x 40 inches; December Storm ,1941-1960, watercolor on paper mounted on board, 40 1/2 x 53 7/8 inches
For further biographical information please see America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists.
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