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Modern Icon: The Machine as Subject in American Art

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Telegraph Pole

1935
23 3/8 x 20 7/8 in. (59.4 x 53 cm)

Charles Ephraim Burchfield
American (Ashtabula Harbor, OH, 1893 - 1967, Buffalo, NY)

Object Type: Watercolor
Medium and Support: Watercolor, charcoal and graphite
Credit Line: Gift of Mrs. Charles H. Babcock
Accession Number: 1947.105
Link to this object
Location: Not currently on view

As a symbol of American invention and progress, the telegraph pole and its wires frame a depressing landscape. The curved pole, clearly a tree cut down and stripped of its bark and limbs, is a powerful metaphor for the abuse that man and nature experience under the unstoppable momentum of industry. Railroad tracks lined by austere workers’ huts lead the viewer’s eyes back to an industrial inferno.

Buffalo artist Charles Burchfield felt a great deal of reverence for the natural world. His nuanced depictions of the industrial landscape were indictments of environmental abuse.

[label text for Modern Icon: The Machine As Subject in American Art exhibition, February 3 – March 6, 2012]

Narrative
Telegraph Pole first came to the Gallery as part of the "Lending Library of American Art," a unique venture whereby Gallery members were enabled to borrow "for a nominal fee" and ultimately purchase "excellent average-priced paintings by outstanding American artists." The project, which was sponsored by the Gallery's Women's Council, initially included works by such contemporary American artists as Charles Burchfield, John Stuart Curry, Rockwell Kent, Reginald Marsh, and others, some 90 artists in all.

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Web Links See links to web pages and lesson plans
Seeing America Inservice Materials from a teacher in-service presentation Spring 2008
Seeing America Chapter on Charles Burchfield's paintings Cat-Eyed House, Springtime in the Pool, and Telegraph Pole, written by Nancy Weekly.


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