BURCHFIELD’S ARBORETUM

  • BURCHFIELD'S ARBORETUM

Event Category: Exhibits

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  • On November 2, 1914, Charles E. Burchfield wrote about a dream about a group of American elm trees that grew in Salem near his childhood home. “The Three Trees”, as they were locally known, would appear first in a sketch from July 2, 1915. He wrote:

    I was at home and had gone up near the Three Trees. Here I came upon a thick screen of trees, penetrating which at a small open place I found myself in a wonderful scene.  It was Summer, for there were many waving fields of wheat on all sides.  All the trees and grass & wheat fields were a sparkling whitish blue-green; the sky was a vivid yellow­ish emerald, and running down from the zenith to the horizon in a curving line were a myriad sparkling stars. 

    These same trees would appear later in the masterwork of The Three Trees, 1932-1946. By the time the painting was finished, two of the trees were destroyed by a tornado and the third was cut down to make way for the construction of new houses. Decades later the American elm tree population would be decimated by Dutch Elm disease, a fungus spread by elm bark beetles.

    In July of 1947, Burchfield went on a trip with his wife, Bertha that ended in Cook Forest, in Pennsylvania. After visiting and old growth section of the forest there, he wrote in his journal:

    It is impossible for me to write here anything adequate about the beauty of Cook’s Forest. It was beyond anything I had ever imagined—I can think of nothing better than Longfellow’s impressive lines in the prologue to his Evangeline “This is the Forest Primeval”. The glory of these ancient gigantic hemlocks is beyond me to describe.[i]

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