Born in 1893 in Ashtabula, Ohio, Burchfield studied at the Cleveland School of Art from 1912-1916 under Henry Keller. He moved to New York briefly after receiving a scholarship to study at the National Academy of Design. Upon his return to Cleveland he found work as a wallpaper designer. This experience would pay off as he relocated to Buffalo, NY in 1925 where he worked as a wallpaper designer for N.H. Birge & Sons.
Burchfield married in 1922 and several years later he quit his job to concentrate on painting full- time. During the “regionalist” movement of the 1930s, his work became fairly popular and widely known and was handled by the K.H. Rehn Galleries. Burchfield was elected a member of the National Institute of Arts and Letters in 1943 and after 1949, taught summer art courses at schools in Cleveland, Minnesota and Buffalo.