Posts Tagged ‘avant-garde painting


Exhibition: ‘Georgia O’Keeffe’ at Tate Modern, London

Exhibition dates: 6th July – 30th October 2016

Curators: Tanya Barson, Curator, Tate Modern with Hannah Johnston, Assistant Curator, Tate Modern.



A beautiful world

I won’t say much about the work of Georgia O’Keeffe here. This is because I want to review the exhibition O’Keeffe, Preston, Cossington Smith: Making Modernism at Heide Museum of Modern Art that I went to see last weekend, in an upcoming posting.

Briefly I can comment on the influence of photography, calligraphy and Japanese printmaking on her artistic practice. With their flattened perspective, manipulation of scale, and forms shaped by light, her paintings are a synthesis, a synesthesia of interior and exterior e/motions linked to music and the modern. As Louisa Buck notes, “Texture and painterly qualities were not what was important in the depiction of her smoothed, abstracted forms… Tellingly, she once declared that “art must be a unity of expression so complete that the medium becomes unimportant.””

Important in that unity of expression is the flow of energy in time and space. Throughout a career that spanned many years O’Keeffe never lost that bravura rendition of energy that was present in her early watercolours. The concerns that were present in the first work, developed throughout her career, were still present at the very end in different form. O’Keeffe wasn’t obsessed with the power of the image but rather with insight into the condition of the image, and how it resolved and portrayed the world in its many forms. Texture was not necessary to this clear seeing… of beauty in the intricacy of nature, of Black Place/White Space, and of the faraway – “that memory or dream thing”. Far Away.


Please click on the artwork for a larger version of the image.



“When I started painting the pelvis bones I was most interested in the holes in the bones – what I saw through them – particularly the blue from holding them up against the sky… They were the most beautiful thing against the Blue – that Blue that will always be there as it is now after all man’s destruction is finished.”

“Whether you succeed or not is irrelevant, there is no such thing. Making your unknown known is the important thing – and keeping the unknown always beyond you.”

“Someone else’s vision will never be as good as your own vision of yourself. Live and die with it ’cause in the end it’s all you have. Lose it and you lose yourself and everything else. I should have listened to myself.”

Georgia O’Keeffe



“The radical cropping, and the use of fore- and background, but less so of a middle-ground, is clearly influenced by photography – in particular the work of her friend Paul Strand (1890-1976) – but it is disingenuous to suggest that her painting is just like photography, or that photography captures the scenery better (as has been said about some of the works in this exhibition) – since her painterly quality, despite the flatness of the surface, creates a vast sense of space in the composition, reflecting the monumentality of the landscape and a true sense of the expansive horizon. Her landscapes pulsate and, unlike photography, which captures one decisive moment, they are living and breathing. The colours she chooses reflect the atmosphere of the place – particularly the heat of the New Mexico desert – and it is this affinity to a place, this experience of a landscape, that O’Keeffe paints best…

Is it therefore correct that the first major exhibition of O’Keeffe’s work in the UK in 20 years – marking the centenary of her 1916 debut exhibition at 291 – should portray her as half of a co-dependent artistic duo? Of the 221 works in the show, from 71 lenders, only 115 are major O’Keeffes. The rest comprise works by Stieglitz, Strand, Ansel Adams (1902-84), and others – all men – from the sphere in which she was working. What male artist of this calibre would have nearly half the items in his major retrospective made up of works by women who had been working around him? …

Her initial representational painting would be done from life, out in the open air, then she would take the canvas home to her studio and work over it so that it took on an emotional resonance – something she described as: “that memory or dream thing I do that for me comes nearer reality than my objective kind of work”. She painted on canvas with a very fine weave and coated it with a special primer to make the surface extremely smooth, blending one colour into the next, making sure that the brushstrokes were invisible. Her colours remain rich and bright to this day – O’Keeffe was a painter who knew what she was doing on every level.”

Anna McNay, “Georgia O’Keeffe,” on the Studio International website 15 August 2016


Alfred Stieglitz (1864-1946) 'Untitled [O'Keeffe with sketchpad and watercolors]' 1918


Alfred Stieglitz (1864-1946)
Untitled [O’Keeffe with sketchpad and watercolors]
Silver gelatin print


Georgia O'Keeffe (1887-1986) 'Sunrise' 1916


Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986)
Watercolour on paper
22.5 x 30.2 cm
© Georgia O’Keeffe Museum/DACS 2016
Courtesy Barney Ebsworth collection



“The Texas country that I know is the plains. It was land like the ocean all the way around. Hardly anybody liked it, but I loved it. The wind blew too hard, the dust flew, and we had heavy dust storms. I’ve come in many times when I’d be the colour of the road. At night you could drive away from the town, right out into space. You didn’t have to drive on the road, and when the sunset was gone, you turned around and went back, lighted by the light of the town.”

Georgia O’Keeffe in the film Georgia O’Keeffe, produced and directed by Perry Miller Adato; a WNET/THIRTEEN production for Women in Art, 1977. Portrait of an Artist, no.1; series distributed by Films, Inc./Home Vision, New York.


Georgia O'Keeffe (1887-1986) 'No. 12 Special' 1916


Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986)
No. 12 Special
Charcoal on paper, 61 x 48.3 cm
© Georgia O’Keeffe Museum/DACS 2016
Photo © 2015 Digital image, The Museum of Modern Art, New York/Scala, Florence



“I was busy in the daytime and I made most of these drawings at night. I sat on the floor and worked against the closet door. Eyes can see shapes. It’s as if my mind creates shapes that I don’t know about. I get this shape in my head and sometimes I know what it comes from and sometimes I don’t. And I think with myself that there are a few shapes that I have repeated a number of times during my life and I haven’t known I was repeating them until after I had done it.”

Georgia O’Keeffe in the film Georgia O’Keeffe, produced and directed by Perry Miller Adato; a WNET/THIRTEEN production for Women in Art, 1977. Portrait of an Artist, no.1; series distributed by Films, Inc./Home Vision, New York.


Georgia O'Keeffe. 'Untitled (Abstraction/Portrait of Paul Strand)' 1917


Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986)
Untitled (Abstraction/Portrait of Paul Strand)
Watercolour on paper


Georgia O'Keeffe (1887-1986) 'Blue I' 1916


Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986)
Blue I
Watercolour on paper
78.4 x 56.5 cm
© Georgia O’Keeffe Museum/DACS 2016
Photo © 2007 Christie’s Images Limited


Georgia O'Keeffe (1887-1986) 'Music - Pink and Blue No 1' 1918


Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986)
Music – Pink and Blue No 1
Oil on canvas
88.9 x 73.7 cm
Collection of Barney A. Ebsworth. Partial and Promised gift to Seattle Art Museum
© Georgia O’Keeffe Museum/DACS 2016


Georgia O'Keeffe (1887-1986) 'Blue and Green Music' 1921


Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986)
Blue and Green Music
Oil on canvas
58.4 x 48.3 cm
Alfred Stieglitz Collection, gift of Georgia O’Keeffe
The Art Institute of Chicago © The Art Institute of Chicago


O’Keeffe was inspired by the European modernist movement and Kandinsky’s theories on how visual art can or should be pure patterns of form, colour and line as opposed to representing the material world. Blue and Green Music incorporates these ideas with O’Keeffe’s love of landscapes and the natural world.


Georgia O'Keeffe (1887-1986) 'From the Lake No. 1' 1924


Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986)
From the Lake No. 1
Oil on canvas
91.4 x 76.2 cm
Purchased with funds from the Coffin Fine Arts Trust; Nathan Emory Coffin Collection of the Des Moines Art Center
© 2016 Georgia O’Keeffe Museum/ DACS, London


Throughout her early work, O’Keeffe was influenced by the European modernist movement and how visual art could be pure patterns of form, colour and line as opposed to representing the material world. From the Lake No.1 clearly demonstrates these ideas, coupled with her enthusiasm for nature and her fascination with bodies of water.


Georgia O'Keeffe (1887-1986) 'Autumn Trees - The Maple' 1924


Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986)
Autumn Trees – The Maple
Oil on canvas
91.4 x 76.2 cm
Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Gift of The Burnett Foundation and Gerald and Kathleen Peters
© 2016 Georgia O’Keeffe Museum/ DACS, London


O’Keeffe made many paintings during her regular trips to Lake George, New York, especially of the vibrant colours of the leaves and trees during autumn. Throughout her life she was deeply inspired by nature and was famous for painting natural objects such as flowers, shells and landscapes from areas she lived in throughout her life, or made painting trips to.



“Tate Modern presents the largest retrospective of modernist painter Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986) ever to be shown outside of America. Marking a century since O’Keeffe’s debut in New York in 1916, it is the first UK exhibition of her work for over twenty years. This ambitious and wide-ranging survey reassesses the artist’s place in the canon of twentieth-century art and reveals her profound importance. With no works by O’Keeffe in UK public collections, the exhibition is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for European audiences to view her oeuvre in such depth.

Widely recognised as a founding figure of American modernism, O’Keeffe gained a central position in leading art circles between the 1910s and the 1970s. She was also claimed as an important pioneer by feminist artists of the 1970s. Spanning the six decades in which O’Keeffe was at her most productive and featuring over 100 major works, the exhibition charts the progression of her practice from her early abstract experiments to her late works, aiming to dispel the clichés that persist about the artist and her painting.

Opening with the moment of her first showings at ‘291’ gallery in New York in 1916 and 1917, the exhibition features O’Keeffe’s earliest mature works made while she was working as a teacher in Virginia and Texas. Charcoals such as Special No.9 1915 and Early No. 2 1915 are shown alongside a select group of highly coloured watercolours and oils, such as Sunrise 1916 and Blue and Green Music 1919. These works investigate the relationship of form to landscape, music, colour and composition, and reveal O’Keeffe’s developing understanding of synaesthesia.

A room in the exhibition considers O’Keeffe’s professional and personal relationship with Alfred Stieglitz (1864-1946); photographer, modern art promoter and the artist’s husband. While Stieglitz increased O’Keeffe’s access to the most current developments in avant-garde art, she employed these influences and opportunities to her own objectives. Her keen intellect and resolute character created a fruitful relationship that was, though sometimes conflictive, one of reciprocal influence and exchange. A selection of photography by Stieglitz is shown, including portraits and nudes of O’Keeffe as well as key figures from the avant-garde circle of the time, such as Marsden Hartley (1877-1943) and John Marin (1870-1953).

Still life formed an important investigation within O’Keeffe’s work, most notably her representations and abstractions of flowers. The exhibition explores how these works reflect the influence she took from modernist photography, such as the play with distortion in Calla Lily in Tall Glass – No. 2 1923 and close cropping in Oriental Poppies 1927. A highlight is Jimson Weed/White Flower No. 1 1932, one of O’Keeffe’s most iconic flower paintings.

O’Keeffe’s most persistent source of inspiration however was nature and the landscape; she painted both figurative works and abstractions drawn from landscape subjects. Black Mesa Landscape, New Mexico / Out of Black Marie’s II 1930 and Red and Yellow Cliffs 1940 chart O’Keeffe’s progressive immersion in New Mexico’s distinctive geography, while works such as Taos Pueblo 1929/34 indicate her complex response to the area and its layered cultures. Stylised paintings of the location she called the ‘Black Place’ are at the heart of the exhibition.

Georgia O’Keeffe is curated by Tanya Barson, Curator, Tate Modern with Hannah Johnston, Assistant Curator, Tate Modern. The exhibition is organised by Tate Modern in collaboration with Bank Austria Kunstforum, Vienna and the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto. It is accompanied by a catalogue from Tate Publishing and a programme of talks and events in the gallery.”

Press release from Tate Modern


Georgia O'Keeffe (1887-1986) 'New York Street with Moon' 1925


Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986)
New York Street with Moon
Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza (Madrid, Spain)
© 2016 Georgia O’Keeffe Museum/DACS, London


Georgia O'Keeffe (1887-1986) 'Radiator Building - Night, New York' 1927


Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986)
Radiator Building – Night, New York
Oil on canvas
121.9 x 76.2 cm
Alfred Stieglitz Collection, Co-owned by Fisk University, Nashville, Tennessee, and Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas
© 2016 Georgia O’Keeffe Museum/ DACS, London Photo: by Edward C. Robison III


While living in New York in the 1920s and 1930s O’Keefe made many paintings of the city inspired by the architecture and lifestyle. In Radiator Building – Night, New York O’Keeffe displays her keen eye for composition and uses colour sparingly, but expertly, to convey the atmosphere of the city at night.


Georgia O'Keeffe (1887-1986)'East River from the 30th Story of the Shelton Hotel' 1928


Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986)
East River from the 30th Story of the Shelton Hotel
Oil on canvas
76.2 x 122.2 cm
Courtesy of the New Britain Museum of American Art Stephen B. Lawrence Fund
© 2016 Georgia O’Keeffe Museum/ DACS, London


O’Keeffe lived in New York during the 1920s and 30s and made many paintings of the city despite being told to ‘leave New York to the men’. She lived in The Shelton Hotel in Manhattan, for 11 years and this piece is a beautiful example of the studies she created of the city from above in her 30th floor apartment.


Georgia O'Keeffe (1887-1986) 'Lake George' 1922


Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986)
Lake George
Oil on canvas
16 1/4 in. x 22 in
Collection SFMOMA
Gift of Charlotte Mack


Georgia O'Keeffe (1887-1986) 'Grey Lines with Black, Blue and Yellow' c. 1923


Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986)
Grey Lines with Black, Blue and Yellow
c. 1923
Oil on canvas
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (Houston, USA)
© 2016 Georgia O’Keeffe Museum/DACS, London


Georgia O'Keeffe (1887-1986) 'Red Canna' 1924


Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986)
Red Canna
Oil on canvas
© 2016 Georgia O’Keeffe Museum/DACS, London


Georgia O'Keeffe (1887-1986) 'Black Iris' 1926


Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986)
Black Iris
Oil on canvas
91.4 x 75.9 cm
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Alfred Stieglitz Collection, 1969
Photo: Malcom Varon ? 2015
Image copyright The Metropolitan Museum of Art/ Art Resource/ Scala, Florence


O’Keeffe’s large close-up paintings of flowers were intended to ‘make even busy New Yorkers take time to see what I see of flowers’ who often didn’t take the time to engage with nature as she did. This detail of a black iris uses a subtle colour pallet to explore the intricacies of the flower petals and their contrasting tones.


Georgia O'Keeffe (1887-1986) 'Dark Iris No. 1' 1927


Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986)
Dark Iris No. 1
Oil on canvas
© 2016 Georgia O’Keeffe Museum/DACS, London


Georgia O'Keeffe (1887-1986) 'Abstraction White Rose' 1927


Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986)
Abstraction White Rose
Georgia O’Keeffe Museum (Santa Fe, USA)
© 2016 Georgia O’Keeffe Museum/DACS, London


Georgia O'Keeffe (1887-1986) 'Abstraction Blue' 1927


Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986)
Abstraction Blue
Oil on canvas
102.1 x 76 cm
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Acquired through the Helen Acheson Bequest, 1979 ?
2015 Digital image, The Museum of Modern Art, New York / Scala, Florence


O’Keeffe experimented with abstraction in her early work, saying ‘it is only by selection, by elimination, by emphasis, that we get at the real meaning of things’. Her love of nature is evident in Abstraction Blue, which hints at flower petals, clouds, the sky and the streams, rivers and seashores she enjoyed making studies of.


Georgia O'Keeffe (1887-1986) 'Shell No. 2' 1928


Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986)
Shell No. 2
Oil on board
23.5 x 18.4 cm
Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Gift of The Burnett Foundation, 1997
© 2016 Georgia O’Keeffe Museum/ DACS, London


O’Keeffe was fascinated with nature, and collected natural objects such as flowers, bones, shells and leaves to use as subjects in her paintings. Shell No.2 is unusual in the way O’Keeffe has arranged a collection of objects related to the sea, as her paintings typically show objects in isolation to their natural environment.


Georgia O'Keeffe (1887-1986) 'Two Calla Lilies on Pink' 1928


Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986)
Two Calla Lilies on Pink
Oil on canvas
101.6 x 76.2 cm

Philadelphia Museum of Art; Bequest of Georgia O’Keeffe for the Alfred Stieglitz Collection, 1987
© Philadelphia Museum of Art


O’Keeffe was constantly inspired by nature and hoped that her paintings of enlarged flowers would draw the attention of busy New Yorkers and encourage them to appreciate the beauty in intricacy of nature that might otherwise pass them by. This piece depicts a close up of two lilies, a regularly repeated subject that earned O’Keeffe the nickname ‘The Lady of the Lily’, first coined by caricaturist Miguel Covarrubias in the New Yorker.


Georgia O'Keeffe (1887-1986) 'Grey, Blue & Black - Pink Circle' 1929


Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986)
Grey, Blue & Black – Pink Circle
Oil on canvas
91.4 x 122 cm
Dallas Museum of Art, gift of The Georgia O’Keeffe Foundation


Originally painted in 1929, Grey Blue & Black – Pink Circle demonstrates O’Keeffe’s interest in the European modernist movement that concentrated on the idea that visual art could or should be purely patterns of form, colour and line. Using vivid colour palettes inspired by nature, she often abstracted natural objects such as flowers, trees and shells.


Georgia O'Keeffe (1887-1986) 'White Iris' 1930


Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986)
White Iris
Oil on canvas
40 x 30 in.
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Bruce C. Gottwald
© 2016 Georgia O’Keeffe Museum/DACS, London


Georgia O'Keeffe (1887-1986) 'Oriental Poppies' 1927


Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986)
Oriental Poppies
The Collection of the Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis
© 2016 Georgia O’Keeffe Museum/DACS, London


Georgia O'Keeffe (1887-1986) 'Jimson Weed/White Flower No. 1' 1932


Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986)
Jimson Weed/White Flower No. 1
Oil paint on canvas
48 x 40 inches
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Arkansas, USA
Photography by Edward C. Robison III
© 2016 Georgia O’Keeffe Museum/DACS, London




Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986) is widely recognised as a foundational figure within the history of modernism in the United States, and during her lifetime became an American icon. Her career spanned more than seven decades and this exhibition encompasses her most productive years, from the 1910s to the 1960s. It aims to dispel the clichés that persist about O’Keeffe’s painting, emphasising instead the pioneering nature and breadth of her career.

O’Keeffe was born in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, the daughter of Irish and Dutch-Hungarian immigrants, and died in Santa Fe, New Mexico, at the age of 98. She decided to be an artist before she was 12 years old. She was the most prominent female artist in the avant-garde circle around the photographer and gallerist Alfred Stieglitz (1864-1946), later O’Keeffe’s husband. The first showing of her work was at Stieglitz’s New York gallery ‘291’ in 1916, now 100 years ago. Tate Modern’s exhibition therefore marks a century of O’Keeffe.

The early years and ‘291’

“I have things in my head that are not like what anyone has taught me – shapes and ideas so near to me … I decided to start anew – to strip away what I had been taught… I began with charcoal and paper and decided not to use any other colour until it was impossible to do what I wanted to do in black and white.”

O’Keeffe’s earliest mature works were abstractions in charcoal, made while she was working as an art teacher in Virginia and Texas. These drawings, made on a comparatively large scale, were exhibited by Alfred Stieglitz at ‘291’ (evoked by this room) in O’Keeffe’s debut in 1916 and in her first solo exhibition in 1917. O’Keeffe had sent her drawings to Anita Pollitzer, a friend from her student days, who first showed them to Stieglitz. He exclaimed: ‘finally a woman on paper’.

This early period also reveals O’Keeffe to be a gifted colourist, skilled in watercolour. Strikingly vivid paintings of the mountain landscapes of Virginia and plains of Texas demonstrate her skilful handling of colour. Her early oil paintings also took their inspiration from the landscape and show an interest in synaesthesia, the stimulation of one sense by another, for example translating sounds such as cattle lowing into abstract forms.

Abstraction and the senses

“I paint because colour is a significant language to me.”

After moving from Texas to New York in 1918, O’Keeffe turned with greater assurance to abstraction and to oil paint as a medium. Focusing on paintings from 1918 until 1930, this room shows the importance of abstraction in O’Keeffe’s work and how she took inspiration from sensory stimulation. Here, her paintings investigate the relationship of form to music, colour and composition, showing her understanding of synaesthesia and chromothesia, or as she said ‘the idea that music could be translated into something for the eye’. We also see her early flower-abstractions.

The critical response emphasised O’Keeffe’s identity as a woman artist and attributed essential feminine qualities to her work, often hinting heavily at erotic content. Stieglitz was a major source for such attitudes and supported them by introducing psychoanalytic interpretations of her paintings. Frustrated with this limited view, O’Keeffe began to transform her style and this room includes several less widely-known hard-edged or cubist-inspired abstractions.

“When people read erotic symbols into my paintings, they’re really talking about their own affairs.”

O’Keeffe, Stieglitz and their circle

“I have been much photographed… I am at present prejudiced in favour of photography.”

This room takes a closer look at O’Keeffe’s creative and personal partnership with Alfred Stieglitz and the circle of artists, writers and cultural figures that congregated around him and the couple. Many of their personal acquaintances are pictured in Stieglitz’s photographs, figures who impacted on their professional and private lives. This was the generation of the ‘Progressive Era’, men and women who came of age in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century and who embodied an optimistic cultural nationalism, wanting to create a modern America.

Two major series of Stieglitz’s work are displayed here: his extended portrait of O’Keeffe, in which we can see her as both muse and collaborator, and his sky photographs titled Equivalents, several of which were also made as portraits of Georgia, linking the two series. Their personal and aesthetic exchange is continued in the painting A Celebration 1924, an image of clouds made by O’Keeffe the year they married. Other works by O’Keeffe can also be considered indirect portraits of Stieglitz.

New York cityscapes

When O’Keeffe first expressed an intention to paint New York, she said, ‘Of course, I was told it was an impossible idea – even the men hadn’t done too well with it’. She made her first painting of the city in 1925, continuing with the same subject for the rest of the decade. O’Keeffe’s paintings show views from street level, the tall buildings providing an urban parallel to her early depictions of canyons in Texas and later in New Mexico. O’Keeffe and Stieglitz lived on the 30th floor of a skyscraper, and she delighted in the vantage point it afforded of the city beneath.

“I know it is unusual for an artist to want to work way up near the roof of a big hotel, in the heart of a roaring city, but I think that’s just what the artist of today needs for stimulus… Today the city is something bigger, grander, more complex than ever before in history.”

O’Keeffe stopped painting New York not long after the Wall Street Crash of 1929, the year she made her first prolonged visit to New Mexico. With the onset of the Great Depression, the city’s utopian spirit vanished, and it no longer held her attention.

Lake George

“I wish you could see the place here – there is something so perfect about the mountains and the lake and the trees – Sometimes I want to tear it all to pieces – it seems so perfect – but it is really lovely.”

The rural Northeast, through Lake George in upstate New York, as well as coastal Maine and Canada, contrasts both with New York City and, later, O’Keeffe’s travels to the Southwest. Lake George in particular, where the Stieglitz family had a summer home, enabled O’Keeffe to continue her investigation of abstraction from nature. O’Keeffe first visited Lake George as a student in 1908, but during her three-decade relationship with Stieglitz, she spent summer and autumn there. ‘Here I feel smothered with green’, she remarked, revealing her ambivalence towards the location. Nevertheless, the years she spent summering there were some of the most prolific of her career.

Lake George and the Northeast suggested a different palette to O’Keeffe. Her works made there range from soft blue and green to the red and purple of maple trees and the warm red of apples and autumn leaves. Like the images of New York, there are correlations between her works and Stieglitz’s photography – key motifs include the lake itself, trees, turbulent clouds, barns and still lifes of apples or leaves.

Flowers and still lifes

“Nobody sees a flower – really – it is so small – we haven’t time – and to see takes time… So I said to myself – I’ll paint what I see – what the flower is to me, but I’ll paint it big and they will be surprised into taking time to look at it – I will make even busy New Yorkers take time to see what I see of flowers… Well – I made you take time to look … and when you took time … you hung all your own associations with flowers on my flower and you write about my flower as if I think and see what you think and see of the flower – and I don’t.”

O’Keeffe is renowned for her flower paintings, which she made from the 1920s until the 1950s. At first her work tended towards imaginative, semi-abstract compositions inspired by flowers, or showing the entire form of the flower, as in her delicate calla lilies of the 1920s. They progressed to works with a greater photographic realism, focusing in close-up on the blooms themselves. This move to realism was partly motivated by her aim to dispel the sexual or bodily interpretations of her work made by critics, and O’Keeffe lamented that this view continued.


Georgia O'Keeffe (1887-1986) 'Black Cross with Stars and Blue' 1929


Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986)
Black Cross with Stars and Blue
Oil on canvas
101.6 x 76.2 cm
Private Collection
© 2016 Georgia O’Keeffe Museum/ DACS, London


Black Cross with Stars and Blue demonstrates O’Keeffe’s passion for the New Mexico landscape with her talent for creating strong compositions and using a limited colour palette effectively. This early painting of New Mexico echoes her city paintings of the era, using the cross as a towering foreground for the even more monumental mountains behind.


Georgia O'Keeffe (1887-1986) 'Black Mesa Landscape, New Mexico / Out Back of Marie's II' 1930


Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986)
Black Mesa Landscape, New Mexico / Out Back of Marie’s II
Oil on canvas mounted on board
24 1/4 x 36 1/4 (61.6 x 92.1)
Georgia O’Keeffe Museum. Gift of The Burnett Foundation
© 2016 Georgia O’Keeffe Museum/DACS, London



This is one of O’Keeffe’s earliest paintings of the New Mexico landscape after she first visited the area in the summer of 1929. It’s a beautiful example of her early style of painting, with a focus on colour and contour, simplifying and refining the dessert terrain that truly inspired her.

“When I got to New Mexico, that was mine. As soon as I saw it, that was my country. I’d never seen anything like it before, but it fitted to me exactly. It’s something that’s in the air, it’s just different. The sky is different, the stars are different, the wind is different.”

Georgia O’Keeffe in the film Georgia O’Keeffe, produced and directed by Perry Miller Adato; a WNET/THIRTEEN production for Women in Art, 1977. Portrait of an Artist, no.1; series distributed by Films, Inc./Home Vision, New York.


Georgia O'Keeffe (1887-1986) 'Rust Red Hills' 1930


Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986)
Rust Red Hills
Oil on canvas
40.6 x 76.2 cm
Sloan Fund Purchase Brauer Musuem of Art
Valpariaso University
© 2016 Georgia O’Keeffe Museum/ DACS, London


Having made the first of many trips to New Mexico the previous year, O’Keeffe was constantly inspired by the distinctive red hills of the area, and made it her permanent home in later life. In Rust Red Hills, O’Keeffe uses a range of rich colours, exploring the natural form of the local landscape and the variation of colour within the rock formations.


Sangre de Cristo Mountains in Taos County, New Mexico


Sangre de Cristo Mountains in Taos County, New Mexico, with Arroyo Hondo in the front


Georgia O'Keeffe (1887-1986) 'Horse's Skull with Pink Rose' 1931


Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986)
Horse’s Skull with Pink Rose
Oil on canvas
101.6 x 76.2 cm
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Gift of the Georgia O’Keeffe Foundation 1994
Photo: © 2015. Digital image Museum Associates/ LACMA/ Art Resource NY/ Scala, Florence


The arid desert terrain of New Mexico, where O’Keeffe spent many months in her Ghost Ranch house, was littered with animal bones which she often collected and painted. She frequently positioned these bones alongside flowers in her pieces to express how she felt about the desert she enjoyed so much.


Georgia O'Keeffe (1887-1986) 'Deer's Skull with Pedernal' 1936


Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986)
Deer’s Skull with Pedernal
Oil on canvas
91.44 x 76.52 cm
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Gift of the William H. Lane Foundation
© 2016 Georgia O’Keeffe Museum/ DACS, London
Photo: © 2016 Museum of Fine Arts, Boston



The mountain Pedernal was visible from the front door of O’Keeffe’s Ghost Ranch house in New Mexico and is present in a vast amount of her paintings of the New Mexico landscape. O’Keeffe felt a deep connection with the area and described the flat top mountain as ‘my private mountain. It belongs to me’. She picked up animal skulls from the desert terrain and often used them as subjects for her paintings, which became some of her most iconic works.

“The first year I was out here I began picking up bones because there were no flowers. I wanted to take something home, something to work on… When it was time to go home I felt as if I hadn’t even started on the country and I wondered what I could take home that I could continue what I felt about the country and I couldn’t think of anything to take home but a barrel of bones. So when I got home with my barrel of bones to Lake George I stayed up there quite a while that fall and painted them. That’s where I painted my first skulls, from this barrel of bones.”

Georgia O’Keeffe in the film Georgia O’Keeffe, produced and directed by Perry Miller Adato; a WNET/THIRTEEN production for Women in Art, 1977. Portrait of an Artist, no.1; series distributed by Films, Inc./Home Vision, New York.


Georgia O'Keeffe (1887-1986) 'From the Faraway, Nearby' 1937


Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986)
From the Faraway, Nearby
Oil in canvas
Photograph: Georgia O’Keeffe/The Metropolitan Museum of Art/Art Resource/Scala, Florence



New Mexico: Taos and Alcalde

“When I got to New Mexico that was mine. As soon as I saw it that was my country. I’d never seen anything like it before, but it fitted to me exactly. It’s something that’s in the air – it’s different. The sky is different, the wind is different. I shouldn’t say too much about it because other people may be interested and I don’t want them interested.”

In 1929 O’Keeffe made her first prolonged visit to New Mexico in the Southwestern United States, a dry and arid high altitude desert region. Initially she was invited to stay with the socialite, art patron and writer Mabel Dodge Luhan in her house in Taos, a town already home to an established artistic community.

Over the next few years, O’Keeffe made repeated visits to New Mexico. Here she had found a landscape that was a contrast to the East coast but whose rural and expansive qualities felt familiar. O’Keeffe explored the specifics of the region, the adobe or earth-built architecture, the crosses, as well as views of the wide mesas or flat mountain plateaus, revealing its cultural complexity – the layering of Native American and Spanish colonial influences on the landscape.

From the faraway, nearby: Skull Paintings

“When I found the beautiful white bones on the desert I picked them up and took them home… I have used these things to say what is to me the wideness and wonder of the world as I live in it.”

O’Keeffe began painting animal bones, principally skulls, around 1931, but had collected them since 1929. As she explained, “that first summer I spent in New Mexico I was a little surprised that there were so few flowers. There was no rain so the flowers didn’t come. Bones were easy to find so I began collecting bones.” Wanting to take something back with her she decided “the best thing I could do was to take with me a barrel of bones.”

Writers and painters at this time were searching for a specifically American iconography, or in O’Keeffe’s words ‘the Great American Thing’. In O’Keeffe’s paintings the bones, particularly when juxtaposed with the desert landscape of the Southwest, summarise the essence of America which she felt was not in New York but was the country west of the Hudson River, which symbolised what she called ‘the Faraway’.

Ghost Ranch

“I wish you could see what I see out the windows – the earth pink and yellow cliffs to the north – the full pale moon about to go down in an early morning lavender sky behind a very long beautiful tree-covered mesa to the west – pink and purple hills in front and the scrubby fine dull green cedars – and a feeling of much space – It is a very beautiful world.”

O’Keeffe first discovered Ghost Ranch in 1934 – a ‘dude ranch’ for wealthy tourists to gain an experience of the ‘wild west’. Though O’Keeffe wanted nothing to do with the ranch’s patrons she stayed in an adobe house on the property from 1937, purchasing the house in 1940, her first home in New Mexico. During the later 1930s and 1940s O’Keeffe deepened her exploration of the distinctive landscape of the Southwest – the intense reds and pinks of the earth and cliffs, the desiccated trees, the Chama River and the Cerro Pedernal (‘flint hill’), which is the Spanish name for the flat-topped mesa viewed in the distance from Ghost Ranch. ‘It’s my private mountain. It belongs to me’, she said, half-jokingly. ‘God told me if I painted it enough, I could have it’.


Georgia O'Keeffe (1887-1986) 'Pedernal with Red Hills (Red Hills with the Pedernal)' 1936


Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986)
Pedernal with Red Hills (Red Hills with the Pedernal)
Oil on canvas
50.8 x 76.2 cm
Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Gift of The Georgia O’Keeffe Foundation, 2006
© 2016 Georgia O’Keeffe Museum/ DACS, London


Georgia O'Keeffe (1887-1986) 'Red Hills and White Flower' 1937


Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986)
Red Hills and White Flower
Pastel on paper covered board
19 3/8 x 25 5/8
Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Gift of the Burnett Foundation © 1987, Private Collection


Georgia O'Keeffe (1887-1986) 'Red and Yellow Cliffs' 1940


Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986)
Red and Yellow Cliffs
Oil on canvas
61 x 91.4 cm
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Alfred Stieglitz Collection, Bequest of Georgia O’Keeffe, 1986
Photo: © 2015. Image copyright The Metropolitan Museum of Art/ Art Resource/ Scala, Florence


The distinctive landscape of the New Mexico desert was a constant source of inspiration for O’Keeffe, from her first visit to the area in 1929. She discovered Ghost Ranch in 1934 where she made many painting trips and purchased a house there in 1940. O’Keeffe’s paintings of New Mexico terrain and the natural objects she found there became some of her best known works.


Georgia O'Keeffe (1887-1986) 'My Backyard' 1937


Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986)
My Backyard
Oil on canvas
© 2016 Georgia O’Keeffe Museum/ DACS, London


Georgia O'Keeffe (1887-1986) 'My Front Yard, Summer' 1941


Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986)
My Front Yard, Summer
Oil on canvas
50.8 x 76.2 cm
Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Gift of The Georgia O’Keeffe Foundation, 2006
© 2016 Georgia O’Keeffe Museum/ DACS, London


O’Keeffe was deeply inspired by the New Mexico landscape that she visited on painting trips from 1929 onwards. She bought a house at Ghost Ranch 1940 before moving there permanently in 1949 and never tired of the desert landscape that she made countless studies of. ‘It’s my private mountain. It belongs to me’, she said, half-jokingly ‘God told me if I painted it enough, I could have it’


Georgia O'Keeffe (1887-1986) 'Red Hills and Bones' 1941


Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986)
Red Hills and Bones
Oil on canvas
75.6 x 101.6 cm
Philadelphia Museum of Art: The Alfred Stieglitz Collection, 1949
© Philadelphia Museum of Art


The arid desert landscape of New Mexico, where O’Keeffe had a house at Ghost Ranch, was a constant inspiration for her paintings. Red Hills and Bones depicts the distinctive red hills of the local area, exaggerating their colours in contrast to the white animal bones, which in turn mirror the ridges of the landscape in the background.


Georgia O'Keeffe (1887-1986) 'Black Place III' 1944


Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986)
Black Place III
Oil on canvas
36 x 40″
Georgia O’Keeffe Museum (Santa Fe, USA)
© 2016 Georgia O’Keeffe Museum/DACS, London



“The Black Place is about one hundred and fifty miles from Ghost Ranch and as you come to it over a hill, it looks like a mile of elephants – grey hills all about the same size with almost white sand at their feet. When you get into the hills you find that all the surfaces are evenly crackled so walking and climbing are easy…

I don’t remember what I painted on my first trip over there. I have gone so many times. I always went prepared to camp. There was a fine little spot quite far off the road with thick old cedar trees with handsome trunks – not very tall but making good spots of shade…

Such a beautiful, untouched lonely-feeling place – part of what I call the Far Away.”

Georgia O’Keeffe in Georgia O’Keeffe (A Studio Book), published by Viking Press, New York, 1976


Georgia O'Keeffe (1887-1986) 'Black Place Green' 1949


Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986)
Black Place Green
Oil on canvas
94.6 x 117.5 cm
© Georgia O’Keeffe Museum/DACS 2016, collection of Jane Lombard



The black place and the white place

“I must have seen the Black Place first driving past on a trip into the Navajo country and, having seen it, I had to go back to paint – even in the heat of mid-summer. It became one of my favourite places to work … as you come to it over a hill, it looks like a mile of elephants – grey hills all about the same size.”

Two very specific locations recur frequently in O’Keeffe’s work. Their repetition allowed her to explore the various conditions of landscape through changing light and seasons, and its representation through degrees of abstraction. In one location, the ‘White Place’ – a site of grey-white cliffs in the Chama River valley – she explored the differing variations of light on the white limestone cliffs and contrasted this with vivid blue sky. In the more distant ‘Black Place’ – which is 150 miles west of Ghost Ranch – she progressively abstracted from observed, perceptual reality towards more intensely-coloured, non-naturalistic compositions, painted from memory.

In the ‘White Place’ and ‘Black Place’ paintings O’Keeffe also became more clearly engaged with seriality, obsessively returning to the same motif and working through it in its different permutations.


Georgia O'Keeffe (1887-1986) 'In the Patio No IV' 1948


Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986)
In the Patio No IV
Illustration: 2016 Georgia O’Keeffe Museum/ DACS, London



Those little squares in the door paintings are tiles in front of the door; they’re really there, so you see the painting is not abstract. It’s quite realistic. I’m always trying to paint that door – I never quite get it… It’s a curse – the way I feel I must continually go on with that door. Once I had the idea of making the door larger and the picture smaller, but then the wall, the whole surface of that wonderful wall, would have been lost.

Georgia O’Keeffe in Katherine Kuh, The Artist’s Voice: Talks with Seventeen Artists, published by Harper & Row, New York, 1961; quoted in Georgia O’Keeffe and Her Houses, 2012.


Georgia O'Keeffe (1887-1986) 'Pelvis Series, Red with Yellow' 1945


Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986)
Pelvis Series, Red with Yellow
Oil on canvas
91.8 x 122.2 cm
Georgia O’Keeffe Museum. Extended loan, private collection
© 2016 Georgia O’Keeffe Museum/ DACS, London



During her long stays in her Ghost Ranch house in New Mexico, O’Keeffe picked up bones from the desert floor and began to paint them. This piece is part of a series of paintings she made to show the sky as seen through the various holes in a pelvis bone she found.

“When I started painting the pelvis bones I was most interested in the holes in the bones – what I saw through them – particularly the blue from holding them up against the sky… They were the most beautiful thing against the Blue – that Blue that will always be there as it is now after all man’s destruction is finished.” ~ Georgia O’Keeffe


Georgia O'Keeffe (1887-1986) 'Pelvis Series' 1947


Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986)
Pelvis Series
Oil on canvas
101.6 x 121.9 cm
© Georgia O’Keeffe Museum/DACS 2016, courtesy Eykyn Maclean



The series: Abiquiú Patios, pelvis bones and cottonwood trees

“When I started painting the pelvis bones I was most interested in the holes in the bones – what I saw through them – particularly the blue from holding them up in the sun against the sky… They were most beautiful against the Blue – that Blue that will always be there as it is now after all man’s destruction is finished.”

Working in series became an increasingly evident approach for O’Keeffe in the 1940s and 1950s. She developed three series simultaneously during this period, each one exploring a path towards abstraction, in parallel to developments in abstract painting in New York. They were also made against the backdrop of the Second World War (referred to in the quotation above), and of Stieglitz’s death in 1946. At the same time O’Keeffe’s work was becoming increasingly prominent, with major solo exhibitions at The Art Institute of Chicago and the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

O’Keeffe continued her investigation of bones, using pelvis bones rather than skulls, held up against the sky, or viewing a distant landscape through an aperture in the bone. Another motif was the patio of O’Keeffe’s house at Abiquiú, her second New Mexico home, with its distinctive door presented in varying degrees of naturalism and abstraction. Lastly the series of cottonwood trees reveals a more painterly approach to the serialised motif.


Photograph of the Chama River, New Mexico, taken by Georgia O'Keeffe


Photograph of the Chama River, New Mexico, taken by Georgia O’Keeffe
© Georgia O’Keeffe Museum/DACS 2016


Tony Vaccaro. 'Georgia O'Keeffe, Taos Pueblo, New Mexico 1960' 1960


Tony Vaccaro
Georgia O’Keeffe, Taos Pueblo, New Mexico 1960
Gelatin silver print on paper
16.7 x 23.5 cm
Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, VA; photo courtesy Michael A. Vaccaro Studios


Todd Webb. 'Georgia O'Keeffe walking at the White Place, New Mexico, 1957' 1957


Todd Webb
Georgia O’Keeffe walking at the White Place, New Mexico, 1957
© Estate of Todd Webb, Portland, Maine, USA



The Southwest

“Where I was born and where and how I have lived is unimportant. It is what I have done with where I have been that should be of interest.”

O’Keeffe’s engagement with the Southwest was deep and enduring. This room includes drawings and sketches that reveal aspects of her working method as she immersed herself within the landscape or worked back in one of her two houses and their respective studios. It also includes photographs of O’Keeffe taken by Stieglitz in New York State, but with attributes that place her in the Southwest such as Native American blankets and her car – a sign of her independence. Other photographs are by her close friend Ansel Adams who shared her fascination with the Southwest, its landscape and cultures.

From her arrival in New Mexico and spanning the 1930s and 1940s, O’Keeffe also made a number of paintings of Native American ‘kachinas’ – figures of spirit beings carved in wood or modelled in clay and painted. These works make clear O’Keeffe’s awareness of the indigenous Native American cultures of the region and show her fascination with their ritual life. Painting the objects was for her a way of painting the country.

Late abstracts and skyscapes

“One day when I was flying back to New Mexico, the sky below was a most beautiful solid white. It looked so secure that I thought I could walk right out on it to the horizon if the door opened. It was so wonderful I couldn’t wait to be home to paint it.”

This final room shows O’Keeffe’s late paintings of the 1950s and 1960s, focusing on two series that are inspired by aeroplane journeys she took in her later years. One series of the late 1950s takes its cue primarily from aerial views of rivers, which O’Keeffe transformed to create lyrical abstractions that hark back to her earliest works in oil, watercolour and charcoal from the 1910s. A second series of stylised near-abstractions represents the view from a plane over the clouds. Both reveal her awareness of contemporary abstract painting, particularly colour field painting, then dominating American art. O’Keeffe’s works were always rooted in a direct experience of the landscape and her emotional connection to it, and continued to be so until the end of her career.

“It is breathtaking as one rises up over the world one has been living in… It is very handsome way off into the level distance … like some marvellous rug patterns of maybe “Abstract Paintings”.”

Text from the Tate Modern website


Georgia O'Keeffe (1887-1986) 'From the River - Pale' 1959


Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986)
From the River – Pale
Oil on canvas
Photograph: 2016 Georgia O’Keeffe Museum/ DACS, London


Georgia O'Keeffe (1887-1986) 'Winter Road I' 1963


Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986)
Winter Road I
oil on canvas
© Georgia O’Keeffe Museum/DACS 2016


Georgia O'Keeffe (1887-1986) 'Sky Above Clouds IV' 1965


Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986)
Sky Above Clouds IV
Oil on canvas
243.8 x 731.5 cm
© Georgia O’Keeffe Museum/DACS 2016, courtesy Art Institute of Chicago



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London SE1 9TG
United Kingdom

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Exhibition: ‘Italian Futurism, 1909-1944: Reconstructing the Universe’ at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York

Exhibition dates: 21st February – 1st September 2014

Many thankx to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum for allowing me to publish the art work in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the art.



Giacomo Balla. 'The Hand of the Violinist (The Rhythms of the Bow)' (La mano del violinista [I ritmi dell’archetto]) 1912


Giacomo Balla (Italian, 1871-1958)
The Hand of the Violinist (The Rhythms of the Bow) (La mano del violinista [I ritmi dell’archetto])
Oil on canvas
56 x 78.3cm
Estorick Collection, London
© 2014 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / SIAE, Rome



Giacomo Balla

Around 1902, [Balla] taught Divisionist techniques to Umberto Boccioni and Gino Severini. Influenced by Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, Giacomo Balla adopted the Futurism style, creating a pictorial depiction of light, movement and speed. He was a signatory of the Futurist Manifesto in 1910. Typical for his new style of painting is Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash (1912) and his 1914 work Abstract Speed + Sound (Velocità astratta + rumore) (below). In 1914, he began to design Futurist furniture, as well as so-called Futurist “antineutral” clothing. Balla also began working as a sculptor, creating, in 1915, the well-known work titled Boccioni’s Fist, based on ‘lines of force’ (Linee di forza del pugno di Boccioni).

During World War I, Balla’s studio became a meeting place for young artists.

Balla’s most famous works, such as his 1912 Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash where efforts to express movement – and thus the passage of time – through the medium of painting. One of Balla’s main inspirations was the chronophotography of Étienne-Jules Marey. Balla’s 1912 The Hand of the Violinist (above) depicts the frenetic motion of a musician playing, and draws on inspiration from Cubism and the photographic experiments of Marey and Eadweard Muybridge.

In his abstract 1912-1914 series Iridescent Interpenetration, Balla attempts to separate the experience of light from the perception of objects as such. Abstract Speed + Sound (1913-14, below) is a study of speed symbolised by the automobile. Originally, it may have been part of a triptych.

Text from the Wikipedia website


Giacomo Balla. 'Abstract Speed + Sound' (Velocità astratta + rumore) 1913-14


Giacomo Balla (Italian, 1871-1958)
Abstract Speed + Sound (Velocità astratta + rumore)
Oil on unvarnished millboard in artist’s painted frame
54.5 x 76.5cm
The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice 76.2553.31
© 2014 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / SIAE, Rome
Photo: Courtesy Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York


Francesco Cangiullo. 'Large Crowd in the Piazza del Popolo' (Grande folla in Piazza del Popolo) 1914


Francesco Cangiullo (italian, 1884-1977)
Large Crowd in the Piazza del Popolo (Grande folla in Piazza del Popolo)
Watercolor, gouache, and pencil on paper
58 x 74cm
Private collection
© 2014 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / SIAE, Rome



Francesco Cangiullo

Neapolitan writer and painter who made an important contribution to Futurism’s experiments in poetry and drama.

The Napolitano artist was born on January 27th, 1884 and was largely self-taught. He joined the Futurist movement in 1910 and took part in the important Futurist exhibition in Rome in 1914, creating art collaboratively with both Filippo Tommaso Marinetti and Giacomo Balla. Cangiullo created his best-known artwork in 1915; in Café-Concert: Unexpected Alphabet he playfully portrays a lively evening at the theatre in his hometown of Naples in which the singers, dancers, acrobats, and comedians are composed of letters, numbers, and mathematical sings. In 1924 he distanced himself form the Futurists, but still continued a friendship with Marinetti. Fondly reminiscing on his experiences with the art movement, Cangiullo published Futurist Evenings recounting his memories with the group.


Filippo Masoero. 'Descending over Saint Peter' (Scendendo su San Pietro) c. 1927-37 (possibly 1930-33)


Filippo Masoero (Italian, 1894-1969)
Descending over Saint Peter (Scendendo su San Pietro)
c. 1927-37 (possibly 1930-33)
Gelatin silver print
24 x 31.5cm
Touring Club Italiano Archive


Ivo Pannaggi. 'Speeding Train' (Treno in corsa) 1922


Ivo Pannaggi (Italian, 1901-1981)
Speeding Train (Treno in corsa)
Oil on canvas
100 x 120cm
Fondazione Carima – Museo Palazzo Ricci, Macerata, Italy
Photo: Courtesy Fondazione Cassa di risparmio della Provincia di Macerata



Ivo Pannaggi


Pannaggi joined the Futurist movement in 1918, but left soon after because of disagreements with Fillippo Marinetti. In 1922, he and Vinicio Paladini [it] published their “Manifesto of Futurist Mechanical Art.” The manifesto emphasised the importance of machine aesthetics (arte meccanica), which became one of the dominant strands of Futurism in the 1920s. He and Paladini also staged the Mechanical Futurist Ballet (Ballo meccano futurista) at Anton Giulio Bragaglia’s Casa d’Arte.

Around the same time he painted Speeding Train (Treno in corsa), perhaps his most famous work (above). He also created many photomontage works. In Postal Collages (1925), Pannaggi created a series of unfinished photomontages that would be completed through the inevitable addition of stamps and seals by postal workers – an early instance of mail art.


Germany and the Bauhaus

In 1927, Pannaggi traveled to Berlin, where he would live until 1929. He became friends with Kurt Schwitters and Walter Benjamin and published photomontage works in German newspapers. Between 1932 and 1933, Pannaggi attended the Bauhaus, the only Futurist other than Nicolaj Diugheroff to do so.

Text from the Wikipedia website


Bruno Munari and Torido Mazzotti. 'Antipasti Service' (Piatti Servizio Antipasti) 1929-1930


Bruno Munari (Italian, 1907-1998) and Torido Mazzotti (Italian, 1895-1988)
Antipasti Service (Piatti Servizio Antipasti)
Glazed earthenware (manufactured by Casa Giuseppe Mazzotti, Albisola Marina)
Six plates: 21.6 x 21.6cm diameter each; one vase: 11.7 x 7.6cm
The Wolfsonian-Florida International University, Miami Beach, The Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection
© Bruno Munari, courtesy Corraini Edizioni
Photo: Lynton Gardiner



From February 21 through September 1, 2014, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum presents Italian Futurism, 1909-1944: Reconstructing the Universe, the first comprehensive overview in the United States of one of Europe’s most important 20th-century avant-garde movements. Featuring over 360 works by more than 80 artists, architects, designers, photographers, and writers, this multidisciplinary exhibition examines the full historical breadth of Futurism, from its 1909 inception with the publication of Filippo Tommaso Marinetti’s first Futurist manifesto through its demise at the end of World War II. The exhibition includes many rarely seen works, some of which have never traveled outside of Italy. It encompasses not only painting and sculpture, but also the advertising, architecture, ceramics, design, fashion, film, free-form poetry, photography, performance, publications, music, and theatre of this dynamic and often contentious movement that championed modernity and insurgency.


About Futurism

Futurism was launched in 1909 against a background of growing economic and social upheaval. In Marinetti’s “The Founding and Manifesto of Futurism,” published in Le Figaro, he outlined the movement’s key aims, among them: to abolish the past, to champion modernisation, and to extol aggression. Although it began as a literary movement, Futurism soon embraced the visual arts as well as advertising, fashion, music and theatre, and it spread throughout Italy and beyond. The Futurists rejected stasis and tradition and drew inspiration from the emerging industry, machinery, and speed of the modern metropolis. The first generation of artists created works charactersed by dynamic movement and fractured forms, aspiring to break with existing notions of space and time to place the viewer at the centre of the artwork. Extending into many mediums, Futurism was intended to be not just an artistic idiom but an entirely new way of life. Central to the movement was the concept of the opera d’arte totale or “total work of art,” in which the viewer is surrounded by a completely Futurist environment.

More than two thousand individuals were associated with the movement over its duration. In addition to Marinetti, central figures include: artists Giacomo Balla, Benedetta (Benedetta Cappa Marinetti), Umberto Boccioni, Carlo Carrà, Fortunato Depero, and Enrico Prampolini; poets and writers Francesco Cangiullo and Rosa Rosà; architect Antonio Sant’Elia; composer Luigi Russolo; photographers Anton Giulio Bragaglia and Tato (Guglielmo Sansoni); dancer Giannina Censi; and ceramicist Tullio d’Albisola. These figures and other lesser-known ones are represented in the exhibition.

Futurism is commonly understood to have had two phases: “heroic” Futurism, which lasted until around 1916, and a later incarnation that arose after World War I and remained active until the early 1940s. Investigations of “heroic” Futurism have predominated and comparatively few exhibitions have explored the subsequent life of the movement; until now, a comprehensive overview of Italian Futurism had yet to be presented in the U.S. Italian art of the 1920s and ’30s is little known outside of its home country, due in part to a taint from Futurism’s sometime association with Fascism. This association complicates the narrative of this avant-garde and makes it all the more necessary to delve into and clarify its full history.


Exhibition overview

Italian Futurism unfolds chronologically, juxtaposing works in different mediums as it traces the myriad artistic languages the Futurists employed as their practice evolved over a 35-year period. The exhibition begins with an exploration of the manifesto as an art form, and proceeds to the Futurists’ catalytic encounter with Cubism in 1911, their exploration of near-abstract compositions, and their early efforts in photography. Ascending the rotunda levels of the museum, visitors follow the movement’s progression as it expanded to include architecture, clothing, design, dinnerware, experimental poetry, and toys.

Along the way, it gained new practitioners and underwent several stylistic evolutions – shifting from the fractured spaces of the 1910s to the machine aesthetics (or arte meccanica) of the ’20s, and then to the softer, lyrical forms of the ’30s. Aviation’s popularity and nationalist significance in 1930s Italy led to the swirling, often abstracted, aerial imagery of Futurism’s final incarnation, aeropittura. This novel painting approach united the Futurist interest in nationalism, speed, technology, and war with new and dizzying visual perspectives. The fascination with the aerial spread to other mediums, including ceramics, dance, and experimental aerial photography.

The exhibition is enlivened by three films commissioned from documentary filmmaker Jen Sachs, which use archival film footage, documentary photographs, printed matter, writings, recorded declamations, and musical compositions to represent the Futurists’ more ephemeral work and to bring to life their words-in-freedom poems. One film addresses the Futurists’ evening performances and events, called serate, which merged “high” and “low” culture in radical ways and broke down barriers between spectator and performer. Mise-en-scène installations evoke the Futurists’ opera d’arte totale interior ensembles, from those executed for the private sphere to those realized under Fascism.

Italian Futurism concludes with the five monumental canvases that compose the Syntheses of Communications (1933-34) by Benedetta (Benedetta Cappa Marinetti), which are being shown for the first time outside of their original location. One of few public commissions awarded to a Futurist in the 1930s, the series of paintings was created for the Palazzo delle Poste (Post Office) in Palermo, Sicily. The paintings celebrate multiple modes of communication, many enabled by technological innovations, and correspond with the themes of modernity and the “total work of art” concept that underpinned the Futurist ethos.

Text from the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum website


Tullio Crali. 'Before the Parachute Opens' (Prima che si apra il paracadute) 1939


Tullio Crali (Italian, 1910-2000)
Before the Parachute Opens (Prima che si apra il paracadute)
Oil on panel
141 x 151cm
Casa Cavazzini, Museo d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Udine, Italy
© 2014 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/SIAE, Rome
Photo: Claudio Marcon, Udine, Civici Musei e Gallerie di Storia e Arte



Tullio Crali


In 1928 Crali flew for the first time. His enthusiasm for flying and his experience as a pilot influenced his art. In 1929, through Sofronio Pocarini, he made contact with Marinetti, the founder of Futurism, and joined the movement. In the same year aeropittura was launched in the manifesto, Perspectives of Flight, signed by Benedetta, Depero, Dottori, Fillia, Marinetti, Prampolini, Somenzi and Guglielmo Sansoni (Tato). The manifesto stated that “The changing perspectives of flight constitute an absolutely new reality that has nothing in common with the reality traditionally constituted by a terrestrial perspective” and that “Painting from this new reality requires a profound contempt for detail and a need to synthesise and transfigure everything.”

Despite his relative youth, Crali played a significant part in aeropittura. His earliest aeropitture represent military planes, Aerial Squadron and Aerial Duel (both 1929). In the 1930s, his paintings became realistic, intending to communicate the experience of flight to the viewer. His best-known work, Nose Dive on the City (1939), shows an aerial dive from the pilot’s point of view, the buildings below drawn in dizzying perspective.

Crali exhibited in Trieste and Padua. In 1932 Marinetti invited him to exhibit in Paris in the first aeropittura exhibition there. He participated in the Rome Quadrennial in 1935, 1939 and 1943 and the Venice Biennale of 1940. At that time Crali was researching signs and scenery, leading in 1933 to his participation in the film exhibition Futuristi Scenotecnica in Rome. In 1936 he exhibited with Dottori and Prampolini in the International Exhibition of Sports Art at the Berlin Olympics.

Crali’s declamatory abilities and his friendship with Marinetti led him to organise Futurist evenings at Gorizia, Udine and Trieste, where he read the manifesto Plastic Illusionism of War and Protecting the Earth which he had co-authored with Marinetti. He also published a Manifesto of Musical Words – Alphabet in Freedom.


After the Second World War

Crali lived in Turin after the war, where he continued to promote Futurist events. Despite the ending of the Futurist movement with the death of Marinetti in 1944 and its Fascist reputation, Crali remained attached to its ideals and aesthetic.

Between 1950 and 1958 he lived in Paris, making occasional visits to Britain. He moved to Milan in 1958 where he remained (apart from a five-year period teaching at the Italian Academy of Fine Arts, Cairo) for the rest of his life. In Milan he began to collect and catalogue documents relating to his life and work. He donated his archive and several of his works to the Museo di arte moderna e contemporanea di Trento e Rovereto.

Text from the Wikipedia website


Fortunato Depero. 'Little Black and White Devils, Dance of Devils' (Diavoletti neri e bianchi, Danza di diavoli) 1922-23


Fortunato Depero (Italian, 1892-1960)
Little Black and White Devils, Dance of Devils (Diavoletti neri e bianchi, Danza di diavoli)
Pieced wool on cotton backing
184 x 181cm
MART, Museo di arte moderna e contemporanea di Trento e Rovereto, Italy
© 2014 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / SIAE, Rome
Photo: © MART, Archivio fotografico


Gerardo Dottori. 'Cimino Home Dining Room Set' (Sala da pranzo di casa Cimino) early 1930s


Gerardo Dottori (Italian, 1884-1977)
Cimino Home Dining Room Set (Sala da pranzo di casa Cimino)
early 1930s
Table, chairs, buffet, lamp, and sideboard; wood, glass, crystal, copper with chrome plating, leather, dimensions variable
Private collection
© 2014 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / SIAE, Rome the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice
Photo: Daniele Paparelli, courtesy Archivi Gerardo Dottori, Perugia, Italy



Gerardo Dottori

Gerardo Dottori (11 November 1884 – 13 June 1977) was an Italian Futurist painter. He signed the Futurist Manifesto of Aeropainting in 1929. He was associated with the city of Perugia most of his life, living in Milan for six months as a student and in Rome from 1926-39. Dottori’s’ principal output was the representation of landscapes and visions of Umbria, mostly viewed from a great height. Among the most famous of these are Umbrian Spring and Fire in the City, both from the early 1920s; this last one is now housed in the Museo civico di Palazzo della Penna in Perugia, with many of Dottori’s other works. His work was part of the art competitions at the 1932 Summer Olympics and the 1936 Summer Olympics.

Text from the Wikipedia website


Umberto Boccioni. 'Elasticity (Elasticità)' 1912


Umberto Boccioni (Italian, 1882-1916)
Elasticity (Elasticità)
Oil on canvas
100 x 100cm
Museo del Novecento, Milan
© Museo del Novecento, Comune di Milano (all legal rights reserved)
Photo: Luca Carrà



Umberto Boccioni

Umberto Boccioni (19 October 1882 – 17 August 1916) was an influential Italian painter and sculptor. He helped shape the revolutionary aesthetic of the Futurism movement as one of its principal figures. Despite his short life, his approach to the dynamism of form and the deconstruction of solid mass guided artists long after his death. His works are held by many public art museums, and in 1988 the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City organised a major retrospective of 100 pieces. …

Boccioni moved to Milan in 1907. There, early in 1908, he met the Divisionist painter Gaetano Previati. In early 1910 he met Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, who had already published his Manifesto del Futurismo (“Manifesto of Futurism”) in the previous year. On 11 February 1910 Boccioni, with Balla, Carlo Carrà, Luigi Russolo and Severini, signed the Manifesto dei pittori futuristi (“Manifesto of Futurist painters”), and on 8 March he read the manifesto at the Politeama Chiarella theatre in Turin.

Boccioni became the main theorist of the artistic movement. “Only when Boccioni, Balla, Severini and a few other Futurists traveled to Paris toward the end of 1911 and saw what Braque and Picasso had been doing did the movement begin to take real shape.” He also decided to be a sculptor after he visited various studios in Paris, in 1912, including those of Georges Braque, Alexander Archipenko, Constantin Brâncuși, Raymond Duchamp-Villon, August Agero and, probably, Medardo Rosso. In 1912 he exhibited some paintings together with other Italian futurists at the Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, and the following year returned to show his sculptures at the Galerie La Boétie: all related to the elaboration of what Boccioni had seen in Paris, where he had visited the studios of Cubist sculptors, including those of Constantin Brâncuși, Raymond Duchamp-Villon and Alexander Archipenko to further his knowledge of avant-garde sculpture.

In 1914 he published Pittura e scultura futuriste (dinamismo plastico) explaining the aesthetics of the group:

“While the impressionists paint a picture to give one particular moment and subordinate the life of the picture to its resemblance to this moment, we synthesise every moment (time, place, form, colour-tone) and thus paint the picture.”


Development of Futurism

Boccioni worked for nearly a year on La città sale or The City Rises, 1910, a huge (2m by 3m) painting, which is considered his turning point into Futurism. “I attempted a great synthesis of labor, light and movement” he wrote to a friend. Upon its exhibition in Milan in May 1911, the painting attracted numerous reviews, mostly admiring. By 1912 it had become a headline painting for the exhibition traveling Europe, the introduction to Futurism. It was sold to the great pianist, Ferruccio Busoni for 4,000 lire that year, and today is frequently on prominent display at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, at the entrance to the paintings department.

La risata (1911, The Laugh) is considered Boccioni’s first truly Futurist work. He had fully parted with Divisionism, and now focused on the sensations derived from his observation of modern life. Its public reception was quite negative, compared unfavourably with Three Women, and it was defaced by a visitor, running his fingers through the still fresh paint. Subsequent criticism became more positive, with some considering the painting a response to Cubism. It was purchased by Albert Borchardt, a German collector who acquired 20 Futurist works exhibited in Berlin, including The Street Enters the House (1911) which depicts a woman on a balcony overlooking a busy street. Today the former also is owned by the Museum of Modern Art, and the latter by the Sprengel Museum in Hanover.

Boccioni spent much of 1911 working on a trilogy of paintings titled “Stati d’animo” (“States of Mind”), which he said expressed departure and arrival at a railroad station – The Farewells, Those Who Go, and Those Who Stay. All three paintings were originally purchased by Marinetti, until Nelson Rockefeller acquired them from his widow and later donated them to the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Beginning in 1912, with Elasticità or Elasticity (above), depicting the pure energy of a horse, captured with intense chromaticism, he completed a series of Dynamist paintings: Dinamismo di un corpo umano (Human Body), ciclista (Cyclist), Foot-baller, and by 1914 Dinamismo plastico: cavallo + caseggiato (Plastic Dynamism: Horse + Houses). While continuing this focus, he revived his previous interest in portraiture. Beginning with L’antigrazioso (The antigraceful) in 1912 and continuing with I selciatori (The Street Pavers) and Il bevitore (The Drinker) both in 1914.

In 1914 Boccioni published his book, Pittura, scultura futuriste (Futurist Painting and Sculpture), which caused a rift between himself and some of his Futurist comrades. As a result, perhaps, he abandoned his exploration of Dynamism, and instead sought further decomposition of a subject by means of colour. With Horizontal Volumes in 1915 and the Portrait of Ferruccio Busoni in 1916, he completed a full return to figurative painting. Perhaps fittingly, this last painting was a portrait of the maestro who purchased his first Futurist work, The City Rises.

Text from the Wikipedia website


Enrico Prampolini and Maria Ricotti, with cover by Enrico Prampolini. 'Program for the Theater of Futurist Pantomime' (Théâtre de la Pantomine Futuriste) Illustrated leaflet (Paris: M. et J. De Brunn, 1927)


Enrico Prampolini and Maria Ricotti, with cover by Enrico Prampolini
Program for the Theater of Futurist Pantomime (Théâtre de la Pantomine Futuriste)
Illustrated leaflet (Paris: M. et J. De Brunn, 1927)
27.5 x 22.7cm
Fonds Alberto Sartoris, Archives de la Construction Moderne–Ecole polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), Switzerland
By permission of heirs of the artist
Photo: Jean-Daniel Chavan


Carlo Carrà. 'Interventionist Demonstration' (Manifestazione Interventista) 1914


Carlo Carrà
Interventionist Demonstration (Manifestazione Interventista)
Tempera, pen, mica powder, paper glued on cardboard
38.5 x 30cm
Gianni Mattioli Collection, on long-term loan to the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice
© 2014 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / SIAE, Rome
Photo: Courtesy Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York



Carlo Carrà

Carlo Carrà (Italian, February 11, 1881 – April 13, 1966) was an Italian painter and a leading figure of the Futurist movement that flourished in Italy during the beginning of the 20th century. In addition to his many paintings, he wrote a number of books concerning art. He taught for many years in the city of Milan.

In 1899-1900, Carrà was in Paris decorating pavilions at the Exposition Universelle, where he became acquainted with contemporary French art. He then spent a few months in London in contact with exiled Italian anarchists, and returned to Milan in 1901. In 1906, he enrolled at Brera Academy (Accademia di Brera) in the city, and studied under Cesare Tallone. In 1910 he signed, along with Umberto Boccioni, Luigi Russolo and Giacomo Balla the Manifesto of Futurist Painters, and began a phase of painting that became his most popular and influential.

Text from the Wikipedia website


Luigi Russolo. "The Art of Noises: Futurist Manifesto" ("L'arte dei rumori: Manifesto futurista") Leaflet (Milan: Direzione del Movimento Futurista, 1913)


Luigi Russolo (Italian, 1885-1947)
“The Art of Noises: Futurist Manifesto” (“L’arte dei rumori: Manifesto futurista”)
Leaflet (Milan: Direzione del Movimento Futurista, 1913)
29.2 x 23cm
Wolfsoniana – Fondazione regionale per la Cultura e lo Spettacolo, Genoa
By permission of heirs of the artist
Photo: Courtesy Wolfsoniana – Fondazione regionale per la Cultura e lo Spettacolo, Genoa



Luigi Russolo

Luigi Carlo Filippo Russolo (30 April 1885 – 6 February 1947) was an Italian Futurist painter, composer, builder of experimental musical instruments, and the author of the manifesto The Art of Noises (1913). He is often regarded as one of the first noise music experimental composers with his performances of noise music concerts in 1913–14 and then again after World War I, notably in Paris in 1921. He designed and constructed a number of noise-generating devices called Intonarumori.

Luigi Russolo was perhaps the first noise artist. His 1913 manifesto, L’Arte dei Rumori (The Art of Noises), stated that the industrial revolution had given modern men a greater capacity to appreciate more complex sounds. Russolo found traditional melodic music confining, and he envisioned noise music as its future replacement.

Russolo designed and constructed a number of noise-generating devices called Intonarumori, and assembled a noise orchestra to perform with them. A performance of his Gran Concerto Futuristico (1917) was met with strong disapproval and violence from the audience, as Russolo himself had predicted.

Text from the Wikipedia website


Mino Somenzi, ed., with words-in-freedom image Airplanes (Aeroplani) by Pino Masnata. 'Futurismo 2, no. 32' (Apr. 16, 1933) Journal (Rome, 1933)


Mino Somenzi, ed., with words-in-freedom image Airplanes (Aeroplani) by Pino Masnata
Futurismo 2, no. 32 (Apr. 16, 1933)
Journal (Rome, 1933)
64 x 44cm
Fonds Alberto Sartoris, Archives de la Construction Moderne–Ecole polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne EPFL), Switzerland
Photo: Jean-Daniel Chavan


Fortunato Depero. 'Heart Eaters' (Mangiatori di cuori) 1923


Fortunato Depero (Italian, 1892-1960)
Heart Eaters (Mangiatori di cuori)
Painted wood
36.5 x 23 x 10cm
Private collection
© 2014 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / SIAE, Rome
Photo: Vittorio Calore


Umberto Boccioni. 'Unique Forms of Continuity in Space' (Forme uniche della continuità nello spazio) 1913 (cast 1949)


Umberto Boccioni (Italian, 1882-1916)
Unique Forms of Continuity in Space (Forme uniche della continuità nello spazio)
1913 (cast 1949)
121.3 x 88.9 x 40cm
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Bequest of Lydia Winston Malbin, 1989
© The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Image Source: Art Resource, New York


Benedetta (Cappa Marinetti). 'Synthesis of Aerial Communications' (Sintesi delle comunicazioni aeree) 1933-34


Benedetta (Cappa Marinetti) (Italian,
Synthesis of Aerial Communications (Sintesi delle comunicazioni aeree)
Tempera and encaustic on canvas
324.5 x 199cm
Il Palazzo delle Poste di Palermo, Sicily, Poste Italiane
© Benedetta Cappa Marinetti, used by permission of Vittoria Marinetti and Luce Marinetti’s heirs
Photo: AGR/Riccardi/Paoloni



Benedetta Cappa

Benedetta Cappa (14 August 1897 – 15 May 1977) was an Italian futurist artist who has had retrospectives at the Walker Art Center and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. Her work fits within the second phase of Italian Futurism.

Though she was an artist active in Futurist circles, Cappa felt labels were restrictive and initially rejected the designation. In a 1918 correspondence with F.T. Marinetti she writes, “I am too free and rebellious – I do not want to be restricted. I want only to be me.” Despite entering her marriage with such determined independence, the considerable contributions made by Cappa are often overshadowed by the figure of Marinetti and the vociferous manner with which he directed the movement. Cappa’s body of work spanned a range of media that included pen, paper, paint, metal and textiles. She wrote poetry and prose, signed, and spoke as an individual, but only recently has she garnered independent recognition.

In 1919, Cappa published Spicologia di 1 Uomo, a collection of poetry which incorporates “unusual word placement, typographic experimentation, and visual and auditory correspondences.” Subsequently published in 1924, Le Forze Umane: Romanzo Astratto con Sintesi Grafiche (Human Forces: Abstract Novel with Graphic Synthesis), has a similar structure presented in an extrapolated form. Two images from this novel provide an interesting conceptual contrast. The first, Forze Feminile: Spirale di Dolcezza + Serpe di Fascino (Feminine Forces: Spiral of Sweetness + Serpent of Charm) consists simply of three curved lines, one of which provides a central axis for the other two. The linear composition of the second drawing, Forze Maschili: Armi e Piume (Masculine Forces: Weapons and Feathers), has numerous straight lines and arcs arranged in an impenetrable tangle.

Cappa’s publication of Le Forze Umane was one of three books she has written. The release of her book made many futurists question her allegiance with Futurism, for her book seemed to align more with Neo-Plasticism at the time by many male Futurists who have written reviews on Cappa’s book. Cappa collected all of the reviews in her Librone which can be found at the Getty Research Institute. It was a decision made from many reviewers that Cappa’s first book represents the unwillingness from the reviewers to accept a women’s work as part of Futurism.

The action and aesthetic of the machine age is a trope within Futurism that appears frequently in Cappa’s artwork. One early abstract painting, Velocità di Motoscafo, (Velocity of a Motorboat), (1923-24), contains many of the elements that would come to mark Cappa’s painting style. Well defined, curvilinear shapes, painted in gradient tones are compositionally arranged to imply objects in motion: “… the interplay of ‘force lines,’ become the subject.” The artist’s exploration of the machine continued with Luci + Rumori di un Treno Notturno, (Lights + Sounds of a Night Train), (c. 1924) and with Aeropittura (1925). A trip to Latin America in 1926 was followed by a series of abstract paintings done in gouache on paper.

As Cappa developed her artistic practice, her influence within the Futurist Movement expanded. Between the end of World War I and the early 1930s, there was an ideological transformation which led to the period commonly known as Second Wave Futurism. The notably misogynistic tone of the foundation texts was largely muted as the number of female Futurists increased. Several other themes, such as Technology, Speed, and Mechanisation carried over into this new incarnation of Futurism. For this reason, Cappa’s oil painting Il Grande X (1931) is considered the culmination of one era and the prelude to another. In the two decades since F.T. Marinetti’s manifesto, the brash avant-garde movement had largely become the establishment.

It was the Futurists’ affiliation with the state establishment that would lead to one of Cappa’s most recognisable paintings, her mural series for the Conference Room at the Palazzo delle Poste in Palermo, Sicily. The building is an amalgam of works by several Futurist artists. Designed by the Rationalist architect, Angiolo Mazzoni, the Poste Italiane houses tile wall mosaics by Luigi Colombo Filìa and Enrico Prampolini in addition to the murals by Benendetta. The shared themes of synthesis and communication are critical to the aesthetic program of the Futurist structure. Completed between 1933 and 1934, each painting depicts a form of information transfer, including terrestrial, maritime, aerial, radio, telegraphic and telephonic communication. The pale blue and green colour palette, along with the use of tempera and encaustic media, were designed to invoke resonances with Pompeian frescos. The collection represents the idealised speed and efficiency of message delivery in the modern world.

Text from the Wikipedia website



Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
1071 5th Avenue (at 89th Street)
New York

Opening hours:
Monday – Wednesday, Friday 10 am – 5.45 pm
Saturday 10 am – 7.45 pm
Thursday closed

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum website


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Exhibition: ‘Yves Klein: With the Void, Full Powers’ at Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.

Exhibition dates: 20th May – 12th September 2010


Yves Klein. 'Hiroshima' c. 1961


Yves Klein (French, 1928-1962)
c. 1961
Dry pigment and synthetic resin on paper mounted on canvas
© The Estate of Yves Klein c/o ADAGP, Paris



Space [    ] the final frontier … where silence is golden !

Many thankx to the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. See all the Hirshhorn Flicker photosets of Yves Klein.



“I am the painter of space. I am not an abstract painter but, on the contrary, a figurative artist, and a realist. Let us be honest, to paint space, I must be in position. I must be in space.”

Yves Klein



Yves Klein. 'Untitled Yellow and Pink Monochrome' 1955


Yves Klein (French, 1928-1962)
Untitled Yellow and Pink Monochrome
Dry pigment and binder on canvas
22 x 13 1/2 inch
© The Estate of Yves Klein c/o ADAGP, Paris


Yves Klein. 'La Vent du voyage' (The Wind of the Journey) c. 1961


Yves Klein (French, 1928-1962)
La Vent du voyage (The Wind of the Journey)
c. 1961
Dry pigment and synthetic resin on canvas
37 x 29 1/2 inch
© The Estate of Yves Klein c/o ADAGP, Paris


Yves Klein. 'Le Saut dans le Vide' (Leap into the Void) 1960


Yves Klein (French, 1928-1962)
Le Saut dans le Vide (Leap into the Void)
Gelatin silver print


Yves Klein. 'Untitled Green Monochrome' c. 1954


Yves Klein (French, 1928-1962)
Untitled Green Monochrome
c. 1954
Pure pigment and binder on paper
© The Estate of Yves Klein c/o ADAGP, Paris


Yves Klein. 'Architecture de l'air' (Air Architecture) 1961


Yves Klein (French, 1928-1962)
Architecture de l’air (Air Architecture)
Dry pigment and synthetic resin on paper mounted on canvas
103 x 84 inch
© The Estate of Yves Klein c/o ADAGP, Paris



“One of the 20th century’s most influential artists, Yves Klein (French, b. Nice, 1928; d. Paris, 1962), took the European art scene by storm in a prolific but brief career that lasted only from 1954 to 1962. Yves Klein: With the Void, Full Powers, on view at the Hirshhorn May 20 through Sept. 12, is the first major retrospective of the artist’s work in the United States since 1982. Co-curated by the Hirshhorn’s deputy director and chief curator Kerry Brougher and Dia Art Foundation director, former chief curator and deputy director at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, the exhibition is co-organised by the Hirshhorn and the Walker and developed in full collaboration with the Yves Klein Archives in Paris.

Presenting approximately 200 works, Yves Klein: With the Void, Full Powers explores the full range of the artist’s body of work and offers an essential overview and examination of a career that marked a key transition in 20th-century art. His work embodied an understanding of art beyond a western conception of modernity, beyond the object and beyond traditional notions of what art can be.

“Klein’s short but intense career is a pivotal moment in contemporary art history,” said Brougher. “His work questioned what art and even society could be in the future, and it provided new pathways leading to pop art, minimalism, conceptual art, installation and performance.”

The exhibition features examples from all of Klein’s major series, from his iconic blue monochromes and Anthropometries to sponge reliefs, Fire Paintings, “air architecture” projects, Cosmogonies and planetary reliefs as well as many works that have rarely been on view. The installation provides insight into the artist’s process and conceptual endeavours through an array of ephemera, including sketches, photographs, letters and writings. Several films, including performances and documentaries, further demonstrate Klein’s creative practice.

“I would like that when people leave the exhibition they leap into a void, leaving behind traditional notions of art and representation, but even more importantly, questioning the notion of materiality and materialism in art as well as in their lives,” said Vergne. “Ultimately, Klein’s lesson is about a different way of being together.”

Numerous objects are on loan directly from the Yves Klein Archives, with additional loans from the Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Pompidou in Paris, Kunstmuseen Krefeld in Krefeld, Germany, The Menil Collection in Houston, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Tokyo, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and a host of international private collections, including a rare loan from the Monastery of Saint Rita in Cascia, Italy.

Klein was an innovator and visionary whose goal was no less than to radically reinvent what art could be in the postwar world. Through a diverse practice, which included painting, sculpture, performance, photography, music, architecture and writing as well as plans for projects in theatre, dance and cinema, he shifted the focus of art from the material to “immaterial sensibility”; he levitated art above the weariness induced by the Second World War, resurrecting its avant-garde tendencies, injecting a new sense of spirituality and opening doors for much that followed in the 1960s and beyond.

Self-identified as “the painter of space,” Klein sought to achieve immaterial sensibility through pure colour, primarily an ultramarine blue of his own invention – International Klein Blue. This exhibition begins by examining Klein’s early explorations of colour with works in pastels, watercolours and more than 15 coloured monochromes created during the mid-to-late 1950s. Several significant blue monochromes, dating from as early as 1955 up through 1961, are on view. Klein further pushed boundaries in his engagement with colour and form by using pure pigment in tandem with unconventional materials, such as natural sponges. The sponge, which Klein incorporated into his practice in the late 1950s, became a metaphor, as its porous surface completely absorbed his signature colour, giving a material presence to the immaterial.

Among Klein’s best-known works are the Anthropometries, begun in 1958. Under the artist’s direction, nude female models were smeared with International Klein Blue paint and used as “living brushes” to make body prints on prepared sheets of paper. Klein wanted to record the body’s physical energy, and the resulting images represent the model’s temporary physical presence. More than an expression of the inner psyche of the artist, these paintings offer one method of giving visual presence to a cosmic, spiritual body, which neither photography nor film can fully capture. Seven works from this series are on view, including People Begin to Fly (1961) from The Menil Collection and Untitled Anthropometry (1960) from the Hirshhorn’s collection, which features the bodies of Klein and his future wife Rotraut Uecker.

In the late 1950s, but most notably in 1961, Klein began to use fire, which he considered “the universal principle of expression,” as part of his creative process. His Fire Paintings, such as Untitled Fire Painting (1961), in which fire either replaced or was combined with paint, embody concepts of process, transformation, creation, destruction, dissolution and elemental cosmology that were so essential throughout his career. The final galleries of the exhibition include examples from Klein’s “air architecture” projects, including drawings, plans and models for architectural spaces, such as fountains and walls, constructed out of natural elements like air, water and fire – elements that were not traditionally associated with architecture.

Klein created what he considered his first artwork when he signed the blue sky above Nice in 1947, making his first attempt to capture the immaterial. In his celebrated 1958 exhibition Specialization of Sensibility in the Raw Material State of Stabilized Pictorial Sensibility, better known as The Void, at Galerie Iris Clert in Paris, Klein went further by emptying the gallery of all artworks and painting the walls white. Among those who attended the renowned exhibition was Albert Camus, who reacted with a notable entry into the visitors’ album: “with the void, full powers.” In his famous Leap into the Void (1960) image by Harry Shunk and Janos Kender, which was published Nov. 27, 1960, in the faux newspaper Dimanche, which he created for the second Avant-Garde Art Festival, Klein is actually depicted leaping into space himself; the accompanying text asserts: “… to paint space, I must be in position. I must be in space.”

Defying the common understanding and definitions of art – from his experiments with architecture made of air to his leap into the void – Klein aimed to rethink the world in spiritual and aesthetic terms. His philosophy was revolutionary and demonstrated his acute grasp of the contemporary moment, from the horror of the Second World War to the promise of space travel. This presentation of his full oeuvre is essential to discern the shift from modern to contemporary practice and to reveal the extent of the artist’s influence.

Press release from the Hirshhorn website [Online] Cited 04/09/2010 no longer available online


Yves Klein. 'Lune II' (Moon II), 1961


Yves Klein (French, 1928-1962)
Lune II (Moon II)
Pure pigment and undetermined binder on plaster
© The Estate of Yves Klein c/o ADAGP, Paris


Yves Klein. 'Untitled Blue Monochrome' 1959


Yves Klein (French, 1928-1962)
Untitled Blue Monochrome
© The Estate of Yves Klein c/o ADAGP, Paris


Yves Klein. 'Untitled Gold Monochrome' 1962


Yves Klein (French, 1928-1962)
Untitled Gold Monochrome
Gold leaf on wood
© Yves Klein, ADAGP, Paris / SAVA


Yves Klein. 'La Rêve du Feu' (The Dream of Fire) c. 1961


Yves Klein (French, 1928-1962)
La Rêve du Feu (The Dream of Fire)
c. 1961
Yves Klein, ADAGP, Paris / DACS


Harry Shunk and János Kender, photograph of Yves Klein, The Dream of Fire, c. 1961. Artistic action by Yves Klein.


Yves Klein. 'Le Silence est d'or' (Silence is Golden) 1960


Yves Klein (French, 1928-1962)
Le Silence est d’or (Silence is Golden)
Gold leaf on wood
© Yves Klein, ADAGP, Paris / SAVA



Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
The Hirshhorn is located on the National Mall at the corner of 7th Street and Independence Avenue SW, Washington, D.C.

Opening hours:
Open daily except December 25
10am – 5.30pm

Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden website


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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, a photographic archive and form of cultural memory, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

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Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Orphans and small groups’ 1994-96 Part 2

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