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Charles Burchfield (1893-1967)


Night Scene




Transparent and opaque watercolor, pastel, and charcoal on paper


Sheet: 16 7/8 × 26 7/8 in. (42.9 × 68.3 cm)

Credit line

Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Gift of Charles Simon

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Following in a long tradition of American painters who used their art to celebrate the majesty and grandeur of the national landscape, Charles Burchfield imbued his images of the natural world with a sense of spirituality and mystery. In Night Scene, the central subject is the sky, made dramatic through the exaggerated contrast of the dark clouds and vibrant moonlight. The bright, radiating circles of light that punctuate the composition suggest disembodied eyes or perhaps fireflies. Here, as in all of Burchfield’s work, the varying effects of light, atmosphere, weather, and time of day—which the artist methodically recorded—are not simply empirical details but rather are vehicles for conveying a range of moods and emotions.

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