Charles Burchfield, December Twilight, watercolor, 1932-38
Wichita Art Museum
Edward Hopper, Automat, 1927, Des Moines Art Center
Charles Burchfield and Edward Hopper, two of the giants of realist painting in 20th century America exhibited together in the same art gallery in New York and had a long term friendship. Despite the marked differences in their vision, they deeply respected each others painting.
Both of them elevated times of day to play a key role in their paintings. Here are two paintings that focus on darkness- while very different each has its own intense poetry. Ironically Burchfield's watercolor, while the spookier of the two, contains less black than Hopper's strangely empty storefront window.
Intriguingly at the top of their paintings both artist employ a repeated pattern to create a recession into a far distance, Burchfield with his rows of low clouds glowing dark red and Hopper with his reflected saucer-like light fixtures.
Both artists are adept colorists. Wisely they make their highlights pulse with energy- contrasting both warm hightlights and cool highlights against each other and creating a bit of magic. Burchfield lights warm yellows in three of his windows that feel ever so different than the pale band of light he streaks across his horizon.
Hopper in turn ramps the light up way up, but plays off a whole range of yellows against an icy cool white table and an only slightly warmer white trim around his windows.
Burchfield and Hopper were known as outwardly reticent men. But deep within them burned an intense emotional fire. Each in their way had the visual resources to give us lifetimes of remarkable evocative work.