Card 19

Card 19. [A weird picture of cloud formations overhanging a snow-covered cabin in the country.]

This picture is a black and white reproduction of a watercolor and gouache painting, "The Night Wind" done in January, 1918 by the American artist Charles Ephriam Burchfield (1893-1967). The painting shows the home of Mrs. Margaret "Pommy" Weaver next door to where the artist lived in Salem, OH, and recreates a specific childhood impression of monsters and strange phantoms flying over the land (Burchfield, 1930).

On September 22, 1916, Burchfield made a note that seems to presage the painting. In it he mentions a high wind out of the southwest, clouds with black irregular openings that seem like strange creatures above a house with an evil yellow window amid black clawing trees (Townsend, 1993). In that same year, suffering from severe depression, fear and hallucinations, Burchfield made some sketches in his notebook, "Conventions for Abstract Thought," in which he developed various symbols from abstract shapes to represent various moods or pathological states including "fear," "insanity," "brooding," "morbidness," and "imbecility." The spiral symbol of fear can be recognized as the gale sweeping across the sky, and the empty-eyed mask of night over the house is recognized as the symbol for imbecility; morbidness (evil) can be found in the shape of the windows of the house (Baur, 1956; Baigell, 1976; Townsend, 1993; Weekly, 1993). These "conventions," "...make it clear that Burchfield was first and foremost a psychological artist--an expressionist and subjectivist, as it were." (Kuspit, 1997, p. 127). Kuspit (1997) maintains that fear is the most fundamental emotion in Burchfield's art. In fact a few months after painting "The Night Wind" Burchfield was drafted into the military service for the First World War.

Color reproductions of "The Night Wind" can be found in Adams (1997, p. 60), Baigell (1976, p. 40) and Maciejunes & Hall (1997, p. 137). Jim Burchfield, a grand nephew of the artist, and Greg Courtney, a Salem realtor, are shown holding a black and white reproduction of "The Night Wind" in front of the Weaver house in a photograph that was once on the Birchfield Inspirations website. The house will be restored and will become part of the Burchfield museum complex in Salem, OH.

In fact, the Weaver house appears in a number of his paintings, many of which are illustrated in well done interactive webpages of The Burchfield Homestead Society. The house can easily be identified by its tall chimney, and it is interesting to see the many ways that it has been portrayed in Burchfield's work.


          Adams, H. (1997). No place like home: The works of Charles Burchfield. Smithsonian, 28(2), 58-70.

          Baur, J. I. H. (1956a). Charles Burchfield. New York: Macmillan.

          Baur, J. I. H. (1956b). Fantasy and symbolism in Charles Burchfield's early watercolors. Art Quarterly, 19, 30-40.

          Baigell, M. (1976). Charles Burchfield. New York: Watson-Guptill Publications.

          Kuspit, D. (1997). Charles Burchfield: Apocalypse now. In N. V. Maciejunes and M. D. Hall (Eds.). The paintings of Charles Burchfield: North by midwest (pp. 126-130). New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc.

          Maciejunes, N. V., & Hall, M. D. (Eds.). (1997).<> The paintings of Charles Burchfield: North by midwest. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc.

          Townsend, J. B. (Ed.). (1993). Charles Burchfield's journals: The poetry of place. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

          Weekly, N. (1993). Charles E. Burchfield: The sacred woods. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.