Burchfield Museum director presented with unique drawing

SALEM – An out-of-town visitor presented Burchfield Homestead Museum Director Dick Wootten with a new drawing by Charles Burchfield.

Charles W. Burchfield, that is.

The soon-to-be 2-year-old from Columbus is the great-great-nephew of the famous water colorist who called Salem home during his youth.

Young Charlie was one of three generations of Burchfields who visited the old family home on East Fourth Street Saturday.

The others included his dad Matthew, great-nephew to the artist; his mom Emily, his granddad Tim, who was Burchfield’s nephew; and stepgrandmother Debbie. They are all connected to Burchfield via his brother Fred, whose own drawings on a wall of the home have been preserved at the homestead museum.

“I love it,” Matthew said with a grin.

He never met his grandfather Fred, but seeing what he drew on the wall in the actual house where he grew up provided a human connection to the name – much like seeing the same views from the windows that his great uncle portrayed in his paintings created feelings of familiarity.

He knew about the artist growing up and said it was always exciting during roll call of a new class in school when the art teacher called his name and asked if he was related. When he and his wife were picking names before Charlie was born, they always thought that would be a nice name.

“As soon as we met him, we knew,” he said.

This was Matthew’s first recent visit to the museum since he had visited the house as a boy and he marveled at a painting of his great-grandmother, one of the few paintings by Burchfield that included a person. As he wandered from room to room, he said it was hard to describe what he was feeling.

“It’s impressive to be here and see the history,” Emily said.

She noted the fact that the house is in the middle of a city neighborhood, not in the middle of some woods or rural area as she had envisioned due to the landscapes painted by Burchfield.

Tim grew up in Salem and last visited the museum in 2010, the year of his 50th SHS class reunion. He had never been to the Burchfield-Penney Art Center in Buffalo, N.Y. So the family decided to take the trip this summer and stop in Salem on the way back home. He and his wife Debbie split their time between a residence in Delaware, Ohio and North Fort Myers, Fla.

He explained that his daughter-in-law has developed a real interest in Burchfield the artist and that piqued his interest in doing some exploring again. As he peered at family photographs and samples of Burchfield’s work, he said it’s nostalgic.

“My dad had so many good memories of Salem and this place in particular,” he said.

Burchfield lived in the house from 1898 to 1921 with his mother and siblings, including Fred, and based many of his paintings on ordinary images that he saw in his neighborhood and hometown. One of those paintings, “Noontide in Late May,” done in 1917, portrays a neighbor’s garden.

A home with a horizontal upstairs window is part of the image and that same home with the horizontal upstairs window still stands on East Third Street, to the southwest of the Burchfield homestead.

The painting was selected to be part of a nationwide art show called Art Everywhere US which kicks off today, with prints of famous American works mounted in public places such as bus terminals, airports, malls and inside buses. “Noontide in Late May” is expected to be displayed on bus interiors and at bus shelters in Pittsburgh.

Wootten said that was great news for him and the museum, giving Burchfield’s work more national exposure. People from all over the world have visited the homestead, including relatives of the late artist.

“I never know who’s going to show up at our little museum,” he said.

Whoever decides to visit, he is more than happy to share the knowledge of Burchfield that he has amassed over the years.

The museum is open from 1 to 4 p.m. on Sundays through August or by appointment on other days all throughout the year.

To learn more, visit the website at www.burchfieldhomestead.com .