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Charles E. Burchfield Named Buffalo’s Man of the Year

Posted on: | by Scott Hollander |

On this date in 1944, the University of Buffalo presented artist Charles E. Burchfield with its highest honor, the Chancellor’s medal, in recognition of the fact that “through his convincing revelation of the beauty latent in familiar surroundings he had attained eminence among the painters of his generation and had dignified Buffalo in the eyes of the world.” Read more about the event in University at Buffalo Alumni Publications collection, a part of the University at Buffalo Digital Collections.

Charles E. Burchfield, Interpreter of “The American Scene”

“Gardenville Artist Wins Chancellor’s Medal”

His “convincing revelation of the beauty latent in familiar surroundings” earned the Chancellor’s Medal of the university last month for Charles Ephraim Burchfield, “artist and master craftsman, pioneer exponent of American regionalism, authentic interpreter” of his home county and his epoch. This bestowal for the first time of Buffalo’s only civic accolade upon a luminary of the fine arts highlighted the forty-fourth annual mid-year convocation exercise held February 22 in Kleinhans Music Hall.

Recognized as the leading landscape painter in the country today, Mr. Burchfield vividly interprets on canvas distinctive aspects of the Western New York country-side, local streets and Buffalo Harbor. His painting of “the America scene” before it was officially labeled is believed by many to have caused the return of American artists to appreciation of their own local scene. Critics almost unanimously agree also that Mr. Burchfield has no peer in painting somber twilight’s, heavy snow or brilliantly hued flowers.

“The wholesale destruction wrought by this most destructive of wars” strongly emphasizes the fact that “the most nearly permanent human creations are the products of the mind and the imagination,” the Chancellor pointed out in his citation address. “Behind the superficial ugliness of the typical American town, its unplanned streets, its shabby houses, its teeming rail yards, its frequently awkward churches,” the artist “has found aspects of arresting beauty,” he continued.  “The southern shore of Lake Erie, a land at once rough and gracious;  a land of fierce winds and lowering skies, but gentle Summers and luscious Falls…this is his land, the land of varying features he has sought to capture and disclose.”

Mr. Burchfield received his art training at the Cleveland School of Art. For several years he designed wallpaper for M.H. Birge and Sons of Buffalo, devoting his free time to his easel. In 1929 he decided to concentrate exclusively on his painting. He has been represented in almost every national show since 1928 and his exhibition at the Rehn Gallery in New York last November was selected by the Art News as one of the 10 best shows of 1943.

The receipt of some of the highest awards offered to artists in this country, Mr. Burchfield has received second prize at the Carnegie International Art Exhibition, Pittsburgh (1935); first prize at the Newport R.I., annual exhibition (1936); the  Award of Merit Medal of the American Academy of Arts and the American Institute of Arts and Letters, New York (1942); and first prize at the San Diego, Cal., exhibition (1943). He was elected to the American Institute in 1943.

A complete one-man show of his most noted works will be staged at the Albright Art Gallery in Buffalo from April 14 to May 15.

University of Buffalo Alumni Bulletin, March 1944

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