09-23-2016 09-24-2016
Skinner Auctions
Skinner Auctions Boston MA
2930B Boston
September 23, 2016 12:00 PMCalender

After Charles Ephraim Burchfield (American, 1893-1967), Thirty-seven Wallpaper Samples (36 flat and one roll) for M.H. Birge and Sons,

Auction: American & European Works of Art - 2930B Location: Boston Date / Time: September 23, 2016 4:00PM


After Charles Ephraim Burchfield (American, 1893-1967)

Thirty-seven Wallpaper Samples (36 flat and one roll) for M.H. Birge and Sons
Many marked "DESIGNED BY BURCHFIELD" along the selvage, most with "BIRGE - MADE IN U.S.A." along the selvage.
Flat sizes to approximately 37 x 22 in. (94.0 x 55.9 cm), roll 20 1/2 in. (52.0 cm) wide, (length not measured), unmatted, unframed.
Condition: Some with tears through the sheet or to the margins.

Provenance: Acquired directly from Martha Burchfield, the artist's daughter, in the early 1970s, to the current owner by family descent.

N.B. From 1921 to 1929, Burchfield was a designer for H.M. Birge and Sons, a wallpaper company in Buffalo, New York. He began as an assistant in the design department, facilitated by an introduction through Henry Turner Bailey, dean of the Cleveland School of Art, to assist Burchfield upon graduation. The Birge firm produced a line of about 100 new designs each year, but Burchfield's original designs were classified as "Special" and were offered at a rate of one or two per year. In 1927 Burchfield was made head designer for the firm. He spent most of each year creating and overseeing designs, with the final quarter being consumed working through production and approving the printings in dozens of color schemes. The job at Birge was critical in the early 1920s for Burchfield to support a wife and growing family. However, he became increasingly disenchanted as the years passed, and, in the summer of 1929, when he had the opportunity to be represented as a fine artist by Frank Rehn gallery in New York, Burchfield quit the wall paper factory.

Commenting on the Burchfield wallpaper designs, John I.H. Baur wrote that "the best...were densely patterned arrangements of wildflowers, weeds, and berries woven into flat designs that remind one remotely of the medieval mille fleurs tapestries...they reveal a decorative talent far exceeding commercial wallpaper work. This side of Burchfield's creative vision, which first emerged clearly in his art school posters, was one that he mistrusted and chose not to develop in his later work. But it should be recognized as one facet of his art." (1)

1. John I.H. Baur, The Inlander, Life and Work of Charles Burchfield, 1893-1967 (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1982), p. 131.
Estimate $2,000-4,000

The roll of wallpaper (Birge pattern 1186) is 19 5/8 inches wide including selvages and just over 20 feet long. There is a 2 1/2 inch tear at the center top edge of the roll. Otherwise the paper is in good condition, with toning, small tears and losses along the edges of the selvages and some creases at the end of the roll where the paper has been tightly rolled.

Most of the wallpapers have Birge style numbers on the selvages.
Of the 36 flat samples, there are several examples of the same design printed in different colors, as listed below:

1186 - one example
1432 - one example (photographed in a group with 3274 and sunflowers)
1826 - two examples
1902 - one example
2308 - four examples
2638 - five examples (Stamped "Designed by Burchfield)
2688 - two examples (Stamped "Designed by Burchfield)
2922 or perhaps 3922 - one example
3274 - one example (photographed in a group with 1432 and sunflowers)
3924 - six examples (Stamped "Designed by Burchfield)
3936 - four examples (Stamped "Designed by Burchfield)
3960 - five examples (Stamped "Designed by Burchfield)
Flower Chain - two examples, no numbers on selvage
Sunflowers - one example, trimmed so no numbers visible (photographed in a group with 1432 and 3274)

The condition of these samples is fragile, with toning, many have tears and losses, some torn into two pieces. Please see photographs.

The absence of a condition statement does not imply that the lot is in perfect condition or completely free from wear and tear, imperfections or the effects of aging. Condition requests can be obtained via email (lot inquiry button) or by telephone to the appropriate gallery location (Boston/617.350.5400 or Marlborough/508.970.3000). Any condition statement given, as a courtesy to a client, is only an opinion and should not be treated as a statement of fact. Skinner Inc. shall have no responsibility for any error or omission.


Charles Ephraim Burchfield, Martha Burchfield, Henry Turner Bailey, John I.H. Baur, United States, Newark