On February 4 and 5, and again from February 15 to 20, 1941, Burchfield was in New York, serving on the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation jury for the fine arts awards. After the jury work was over he stayed three days to look at exhibitions.
February 20, 1941
(CEB bracketed the following in red pencil.)
“Greatest of these was the exhibit of Nineteen(th) Century French art at the Metropolitan–the largest collection I have ever seen. What a glorious period! What a sense of the joy of living, and the dignity and worthwhile-ness of humanity shine thru these pictures! And what fine craftsmanship, and design organization,–From the most imposing Salon picture, to the most apparently casual little sketch, there is an authority, and power that would be hard to equal. Is this perhaps the greatest period in art to date?
To mention the pictures that appealed to me as being great would almost amount to copying out the catalogue; but without referring to the catalogue (to refresh my memory), the following remain in my mind–
‘The Chess-players’ by Daumier (only 8 x 10, but one of the ‘biggest’ pictures in the show)–’Noonday rest’–’The Poor Woman of the Village’ by Courbet–almost all of the work of Delacroix–’Diana and Actaeon’ or ‘Summer’–a battle scene, ‘a crucifixion’–’The Medow’ by Renoir–small landscapes by Corot; a landscape by Millet–drawings by Millet too–’A Paris Street in Spring’ by Pissarro–and many others–
I spent most of one day and half of another at this exhibit.
After saturating myself with the pictures, I went to look at old favorites, such as the El Greco ‘View of Toledo’ and Bruegel’s ‘The Harvest’ (1)– They never looked so well; I think my mind had been so stimulated by the French show, that I saw these two pictures as tho for the first time. I saw details and textures, and various other relations that had before eluded me.
Other shows I went to were: The El Greco show at Knoedler’s (for Greek relief!) very fine–a tiny landscape in the same spirit as the famous ‘View of Toledo’–
The Max Weber show at the Associated American Artists (2)–Here I am faced with subject matter I do not like, done in a way that convinces me that Weber is a genuine artist–
The water-color show at the Whitney (3)–not especially outstanding–but I must admit my own looked good to me.”
1. Pieter Brueghel the Elder’s “The Harvesters or Corn Harvest (August)” (1565).
2. “Max Weber,” February 11-March 1941.
3. “A History of American Watercolor Painting,” Whitney Museum of American Art, January 27-February 25, 1942.
“Charles Burchfield’s Journals: The Poetry of Place”
by Charles Burchfield
Edited by J. Benjamin Townsend
State University of New York Press, 737 pages