Rogues' Gallery

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Rogues' Gallery

Charles Burchfield. Rogues' Gallery. 1916. Watercolor and pencil on paper, 13 7/8 x 19 7/8" (35.2 x 50.6 cm). Gift of Abby Aldrich Rockefeller

Audio Program excerpt

American Modern: Hopper to O'Keeffe

August 17, 2013–January 26, 2014

Curator, Esther Adler: A "rogue's gallery" is the term used for a pictorial line-up that used to be used by the police—so a viewing of photos of people suspected of criminal activity.

And in this instance Burchfield has applied the term to a group of drooping, dying sunflowers. It's like a gang of thieves hanging out. Their scale is important. They loom really large here, the same height as the shadowed buildings that you see in the background, almost as if they're figures from untamed nature challenging these man-made structures behind them.

Director, Glenn Lowry: The subject of nature preoccupied Burchfield throughout his career. Here he is speaking in a 1959 interview with the Archives of American Art:

Artist, Charles Burchfield: I think that if this world lasts for a million years or two million years, or more, that never can you exhaust the subject matter of humanity or nature. It's simply inexhaustible. But I'd like to have at least another lifetime like I've had to say what I want to say about nature. I just don't think I can ever get it said. There just isn't time.

Audio Program excerpt

American Modern: Hopper to O'Keeffe

August 17, 2013–January 26, 2014

Curator, Esther Adler: Burchfield worked predominantly in watercolor. He felt that this was a medium that was preferable to oil paint because it was fast and easier to work with.

Director, Glenn Lowry: Charles Burchfield, speaking in 1959.

Artist, Charles Burchfield: I like to be able to advance and retreat just like a man writing a book. I doubt that very few of them ever sit down and leave a paragraph as it first comes into their head. They work over it, delete things and add things. Well, I feel that I like to do that just as they do. Or as a composer does. I mean you start a picture and I don't know how it's going to come out. I think I know what I want to do but, when I put it down it's not right, and it's got to be changed. I have to find out where the idea wants to go.