COLUMBIA, S.C. – Charles Burchfield was a prominent American painter and visionary artist whose abundant work defies easy categorization. He was once described in the Village Voice as a “mystic, cryptic painter of transcendental landscapes, trees with telekinetic halos, and haunted houses emanating ectoplasmic auras.”
His friend Edward Hopper greatly admired and promoted his work, and he was the first artist ever to have a solo exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. His works are prized today by museums across the country.
But before he had achieved any of that renown, he was just another dogface draftee at Camp Jackson – now Fort Jackson in Columbia, S.C. – at the tail end of the First World War. There are paintings by Burchfield depicting that period of his life at Gibbes Museum of Art in Charleston and The Johnson Collection in Spartanburg.
That period of Burchfield’s career will be the subject of a free lecture at the South Carolina Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum in Columbia on Aug. 25.
Stephen Motte, curator of the Florence County Museum, will be the speaker for the monthly Lunch & Learn session.
Motte will talk in particular about the 60 works Burchfield is known to have created while at Camp Jackson, a place where he didn’t really want to be: “He was not a fan of the war, and not a fan of being drafted,” said Motte – and this showed in his paintings at the time.
Yet even in his Army days, his talent showed through: His superiors at Camp Jackson recognized his abilities, plucked him from the ranks of the infantry and made him a camofleur – meaning his job was to create camouflage. He was at Camp Jackson from July 1918 to January 1919.
Motte intends to bring as many of Burchfield’s South Carolina works together at the Florence County Museum for the first-ever exhibition dedicated to that period of Burchfield’s career, which has generally been neglected.
Motte’s presentation begins at noon at the museum, is open to the public and is free of charge. While you’re there, be sure to check out the museum’s Camp Jackson exhibit – which includes a copy of one of Burchfield’s works.
About the South Carolina Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum
Founded in 1896, the South Carolina Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum is an accredited museum focusing on South Carolina’s distinguished martial tradition through the Revolutionary War, Mexican War, Civil War, Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, the War on Terror, and other American conflicts. It serves as the state’s military history museum by collecting, preserving, and exhibiting South Carolina’s military heritage from the colonial era to the present, and by providing superior educational experiences and programming. It is located at 301 Gervais St. in Columbia, sharing the Columbia Mills building with the State Museum. For more information, go to https://crr.sc.gov/.