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Charles Burchfield spent the summer of 1950 teaching at Ohio University in Athens and University at Buffalo, and could therefore have begun Cicada Woods in either place. The artist decided to retouch this watercolour in 1959, though a photograph of it in its previous state shows substantial differences with respect to the final work as it is known today.
The watercolour, painted in the large format that is so common in his output, is intended to recall the song of the cicada, that mysterious insect whose deafening song fills the air on late summer nights. The dense forest — enigmatic and impenetrable in most of Burchfield’s works — is made even murkier in the present painting by the rhythmic brushstrokes that imitate the repetitive chant of the cicadas. Even the clouds with their upward movement could also recall the pattern of an echo.