Department Chair

Andrew D. Nicholls, Ph.D., Professor of History

Date of Award


Access Control

Open Access

Degree Name

History, M.A.


History and Social Studies Education Department


Cynthia A. Conides, Ph.D., Associate Professor of History, Director of Museum Studies

Department Home page

First Reader

Nancy Weekly, Adjunct Lecturer of History, Head of Collections and the Charles Cary Rumsey Curator, Burchfield Penney Art Center


Over the past 80 years, research on American artist Charles E. Burchfield (1893-1967) has often placed little emphasis on the people and events that were essential for his artistic freedom and the success of his career. This paper, based on the contents of forty years of letters between Burchfield and his wife Bertha Kenreich (1886-1973), challenges the artist’s mythology, which includes misconceptions of his isolation, lack of influences, dislocation from art history and the insignificance of human connections and activities.

New dimensions of Burchfield's identity are examined, significantly his positions as a husband, father, friend to other artists represented by Frank K. M. Rehn, juror, commissioned artist and educator. The brilliant balance between and necessity for both a traditional life in Gardenville, New York and one in the cosmopolitan art world is explored. Burchfield’s career and ability to create was based on the companionship, stability, validation and security that Bertha and his art circle granted. Through this recent access to alternative primary sources in the Charles E. Burchfield Archives at the Burchfield Penney Art Center, a new portrait of the artist emerges.