Charles E. Burchfield: Oh My Heavens, on view at the Hillstrom Museum of Ar
Charles E. Burchfield: Oh My Heavens will be on view at the Hillstrom Museum of Art November 19, 2018 through February 1, 2019, with an opening reception Monday, November 19, 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. and a gallery talk by Tullis Johnson of the Burchfield Penney Art Center, Buffalo, New York, on Sunday, January 20, 3:00 to 4:00 p.m. Charles E. Burchfield: Oh My Heavens features over 50 paintings and drawings by famed painter Charles E. Burchfield (1893-1967), among the most inventive American artists of the first half of the 20th century. Burchfield was known for his visionary landscapes in watercolor, his preferred painting medium and one for which he is acknowledged as the great American master. He invested these works with intense energy and a kind of "ecstatic poetry," a term coined by art historian Matthew Baigell, and the works often seem to crackle with an electrical sort of presence that suggests the divine and that shows his deep reverence for the natural world. Oh My Heavens highlights the artist's interpretations of the skies, moon, planets, and stars. It includes a rare oil painting, The Evening Star (1923-1926), a serene landscape in which the gray and indigo crepuscular sky is dominated by bright Venus, and there are several images that include the moon from various vantages including reflected in a sliver of water. In addition, there are numerous works depicting stars, such as the watercolor Song of the Tree Cricket (1959-1960). Oh My Heavens draws from Burchfield's journal writings, and about Song of the Tree Cricket he described having viewed stars sparkling through the leaves of his backyard willow tree and how that allowed him to sense Infinity and God. Charles E. Burchfield: Oh My Heavens was organized by The Burchfield Penney Art Center at Buffalo State College, Buffalo, New York. First appearing in Buffalo, the exhibit now is being circulated on a national tour, with the first venue being the Hillstrom Museum of Art. The exhibition is supported with generous grants from the Carl and Verna Schmidt Foundation and the Saint Peter Chamber of Commerce Tourism and Visitors Bureau. On Sunday, January 20, 2019, 3-4 p.m., a gallery talk titled "And the Heavens Opened: The Heavenly Art of Charles E. Burchfield" will be presented in the Hillstrom Museum of Art by Tullis Johnson, Curator and Manager of Exhibitions at the Burchfield Penney Art Center. Johnson served as co-curator of Oh My Heavens and was co-author of the catalogue that accompanies the exhibit, which will be available for purchase in the Museum. In conjunction with Oh My Heavens, three works by Burchfield in the collection of the Hillstrom Museum of Art will also be shown. These include two donations from Museum namesake Richard L. Hillstrom, who as a collector was deeply interested in the lives of the artists whose works he acquired. Hillstrom made an unannounced visit to Burchfield's home in upstate New York in 1964. His knock was answered by Mrs. Burchfield, who hesitated to invite him in until Hillstrom told her that in addition to owning one of the artist's works (a 1954 watercolor titled Morning in the Alleghenies), he was also a Lutheran minister. Burchfield, who was not working that day, showed him numerous works from storage drawers in his studio and Hillstrom asked about buying one of the drawings. The artist, however, cited his verbal agreement that New York's Rehn Gallery would be his exclusive dealer and declined to sell directly to a visitor. Not long after this encounter, Hillstrom purchased his second Burchfield work from Rehn, a 1927 drawing of a Young Elm. The third work by Burchfield in the Hillstrom Museum of Art, a lithograph from 1951-1952 titled Summer Benediction, was acquired recently using proceeds from an endowment that, as possible, the Museum continues to increase through donations. As with all the programs of the Hillstrom Museum of Art, this exhibition, its reception, and the gallery talk by Tullis Johnson are free and open to the public. Further information can be found at gustavus.edu/hillstrom.