Posts Tagged ‘Ghost Ranch

05
May
23

Exhibition: ‘Georgia O’Keeffe, Photographer’ at the Cincinnati Art Museum

Exhibition dates: 3rd February – 7th May, 2023

Originating curator: Lisa Volpe
Cincinnati Art Museum curator: Nathaniel M. Stein

 

 

Georgia O'Keeffe (American, 1887-1986) 'Chrysler Building from the Window of the Waldorf Astoria, New York' c. 1960

 

Georgia O’Keeffe (American, 1887-1986)
Chrysler Building from the Window of the Waldorf Astoria, New York
c. 1960
Gelatin silver print
Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe
© Georgia O’Keeffe Museum

 

 

O’Keeffe was unconcerned with creating perfect photographic prints and none of these photographs by Georgia O’Keeffe are memorable but the photographs help inform her art practice, acting as a form of documentary sketch rather than being about the art of photography. Perhaps for O’Keeffe it’s about a clarity of looking, and then looking again at the pictorial plane, in order to abrogate in her paintings a photographic reality that is always unreal in the first place.

Form, light, perspective and place in photographs are all reframed through O’Keeffe’s intuitive mind’s eye resulting in the physical painting so conceived. They inform her creative reimag(in)ings and expressive compositions of the landscape. The formal elements of the photographs, their light and shade, their depth and weight, are rendered – depicted artistically, become, made, translated, performed, surrendered – abstractly in the medium of paint, substituting one perceived reality for another. But the paradox is, what is being seen here, what does O’Keeffe see in her relations with the camera?

“To apprehend myself as seen is, in fact, to apprehend myself as seen in the world and from the standpoint of the world. The look does not carve me out in the universe; it comes to search for me at the heart of my situation and grasps me only in irresolvable relations with instruments. If I am seen as seated, I must be seen as “seated-on-a-chair,” … But suddenly the alienation of myself, which is the act of being-looked-at, involves the alienation of the world which I organise. I am seated on this chair with the result that I do not see it at all, that it is impossible for me to see it …”1

Everything (photography, painting, self, world) is in dis/agreement, everything is up for negotiation – as nothing is “in fact”. What did you say?

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

  1. Jean-Paul Satre. Being and Nothingness (trans. Hazel Barnes). London: Methuen, 1966, p. 263.

.
Many thankx to the Cincinnati Art Museum for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

How well do we know iconic American artist, Georgia O’Keeffe? Scholars have examined her paintings, home, library, letters, and even her clothes. Yet, despite O’Keeffe’s long and complex association with the American photographic avant-garde, no previous exhibition has explored her work as a photographer.

Georgia O’Keeffe, Photographer presents nearly 100 photographs by the artist, together with a complementary selection of paintings and drawings. These works illuminate O’Keeffe’s use of the camera to further her modernist vision, showing how she embraced photography as a unique artistic practice and took ownership of her relationship with the medium. Discover, for the first time, O’Keeffe’s eloquent and perceptive photographic vision.

 

 

 

Through Another Lens: Georgia O’Keeffe’s Photography

Georgia O’Keeffe is revered for her iconic paintings of flowers, skyscrapers, animal skulls, and Southwestern landscapes. Her photographic work, however, has not been explored in depth until now. Originating exhibition curator Lisa Volpe joins us from The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, to discuss O’Keeffe’s relationship to and personal use of photography, the research that brought this history to light, and the discoveries still waiting to be made.

 

 

“There’s an incredible clarity in the way that she thought about composition and the way that forms fill a space the most beautifully… That was her primary concern, and that’s what she’s interested in photographing. It’s not about making a pretty picture or even showing what her dogs look like or any of those things. It’s about what the image looks like as a picture.”

.
Nathaniel Stein, Cincinnati Art Museum curator of photography

 

 

'Georgia O'Keeffe's Spotting Kit' Late 1910s - late 1940s

 

Georgia O’Keeffe’s Spotting Kit
Late 1910s – late 1940s
Various materials
Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe
Gift of Juan and Anna Marie Hamilton
© Georgia O’Keeffe Museum

 

 

Before the advent of digital retouching, flaws in a photographic print, such as dust spots or scratches, were covered on the print surface with a brush and spot tone dye. “Spotting” is a demanding process that requires patience, precision, and a sensitivity to tone. O’Keeffe first learned the technique while assisting Alfred Stieglitz (1864-1946) in the late 1910s. Decades later, she used her kit again, to eliminate visual interference in the perfect tonal masses and shapes in her own photographs. O’Keeffe’s mastery of painting easily translated to spotting – her touch-ups are so fine that they are almost imperceptible.

Large print label to the exhibition

 

 

Most people know renowned artist Georgia O’Keeffe as a painter. What they probably don’t know? O’Keeffe was also a passionate photographer. Soon, visitors can see a selection of her photographs at the exhibition Georgia O’Keeffe, Photographer, coming to the Cincinnati Art Museum February 3 – May 7, 2023.

In the first major investigation of O’Keeffe’s 30-year engagement with photography, Cincinnati Art Museum visitors can gain a rare, new understanding of the artist. More than 100 photographs and a complementary selection of paintings, drawings and objects from O’Keeffe’s life tell the story of her eloquent use of the camera to pursue her singular artistic vision.

“For me, an exciting facet of this project is how it shifts the paradigm for multiple audiences,” states Cincinnati Art Museum Curator of Photography Nathaniel M. Stein, PhD. “Photography buffs are learning her relationship with photography was larger and more complicated than we knew. I think those audiences will be surprised by the sophistication and rigour of O’Keeffe’s own exploration of photographic seeing, even as they have to let go of an assumption that she would be making photographs in service of her painting practice. On the other hand, audiences arriving out of admiration for O’Keeffe as a painter are coming to know the artist’s vision in an entirely new way, seeing her digest the world more clearly and gaining an understanding of elemental tenets of photographic composition and form through her eyes.”

 

Exhibition overview

Georgia O’Keeffe is the widely admired “Mother of American Modernism” who has long been examined by scholars for her paintings of flowers, skulls, and desert landscapes. Despite being one of the most significant artists of the 20th century, no previous exhibition has explored her work as a photographer … until now.

The exhibition is accompanied by a richly illustrated catalogue containing new scholarship by Museum of Fine Arts, Houston Curator of Photography Lisa Volpe and a contribution from Georgia O’Keeffe Museum Curator of Fine Arts Ariel Plotek. The catalogue will significantly broaden readers’ understanding of one of the most innovative artists of the 20th century. It will be available soon for purchase from the museum shop in person and online.

Press release from the Cincinnati Art Museum

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946) 'Georgia O'Keeffe' 1933

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946)
Georgia O’Keeffe
1933
Gelatin silver print
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston: The Target Collection of American Photography
Museum purchase funded by Target Stores
© Georgia O’Keeffe Museum

 

 

Gallerist, publisher, and photographer Alfred Stieglitz made his first portrait of O’Keeffe in 1917 at the beginning of their romantic relationship. Over the next 20 years, he photographed her more than 300 times. Due in large part to Stieglitz’s epic portrait project and his outsized legacy in the American art world, historians have assumed that O’Keeffe’s relationship to photography was passive – that of a sitter, assistant, or spectator. However, O’Keeffe’s photographs prove that she developed her own visionary practice behind the camera.

Large print label to the exhibition

 

 

“It is only by selection, by elimination, by emphasis that we get at the real meaning of things.”

.
Georgia O’Keeffe

 

 

American artist Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986) strived to give visual form to “the unexplainable thing in nature that makes me feel the world is big far beyond my understanding … to find the feeling of infinity on the horizon line or just over the next hill.”

After nearly thirty years rendering the vistas of the Southwest on canvas, O’Keeffe still sought new ways to express the beauty and essential forms of the land in all its cycles. She produced more than 400 photographs of her New Mexico home, its surrounding landscape, and other subjects in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. Photography offered a new means of artistic engagement with her world. Revisiting subjects she painted years or even decades earlier, O’Keeffe explored new formal and expressive possibilities with the camera.

Like her work in other media, O’Keeffe’s photographs demonstrate an acute attention to composition and passion for nature. Her photography provides a window into an artistic practice based on tireless looking and reconsideration. O’Keeffe used the camera to capture both momentary impressions and sustained investigations over the course of days, seasons, and years. Alongside her better-known paintings and drawings, O’Keeffe’s photographs open new insight into her unending dialogue with the world around her.

 

Introduction

From the mid-1950s until the 1970s, Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986) produced more than 400 photographic images, focused primarily on her New Mexico home and the surrounding landscape. After rendering the vistas of the Southwest on canvas and paper for over 25 years, the artist still sought new ways to express the beauty of the land in all its cycles and forms. Photography offered O’Keeffe a new means of artistic engagement with her world. Revisiting subjects she painted years, or even decades, earlier, the artist’s photographs explored new formal and expressive possibilities.

Her photographs reveal the same passion for nature and acute attention to composition that we see in her paintings and drawings. Through photography, O’Keeffe captured multiple momentary impressions and recorded sustained investigations over the course of days, seasons, and years. Alongside her better-known paintings and drawings, O’Keeffe’s photographs reveal her unending, unique dialogue with the natural world.

 

A Life in Photography

O’Keeffe was no stranger to photography. Family photos and travel snapshots marked her early decades. Sophisticated photographers – including her husband, Alfred Stieglitz (1864-1946) – were drawn to picture the enigmatic artist throughout her life. O’Keeffe’s approach to the medium was informed by past encounters, but principally guided by her own interests. O’Keeffe dedicated her life to expressing her unique perspective, whether through her clothing, home décor, paintings, or photographs. By the time she began her photographic practice in earnest in the mid-1950s, O’Keeffe brought her singular, fully formed identity and artistic vision to her camera work.

 

Unknown Photographer. 'Georgia O'Keeffe and Friends in a Boat' 1908

 

Unknown Photographer
Georgia O’Keeffe and Friends in a Boat
1908
Gelatin silver print
Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe Museum Purchase

 

 

By 1890, the Eastman Company had sold millions of $1 Kodak Brownie cameras and photography was part of daily life for many people. Family photographs, studio portraits, and snapshots taken by O’Keeffe and her friends mark the artist’s earliest decades.

Born in Wisconsin, O’Keeffe studied and worked in Virginia, Illinois, New York, South Carolina, and Texas before she was 30. As she moved from place to place, she kept her close friendships in part by trading snapshots. Her friend Anita Pollitzer wrote, “Won’t you send me a Kodak picture… of you?” O’Keeffe responded with her own request, noting, “I want to know what you are looking like this fall.” O’Keeffe continued this practice when she began photographing with a clear artistic intention in the late 1950s, sending her photos to family and friends.

Large print label to the exhibition

 

Between 1907-1908, Georgia O’Keeffe attended the Art Students League in New York and studied with William Merritt Chase, F. Luis Mora, and Kenyon Cox. In June of 1908, she was awarded League’s Still Life Scholarship and attended the League’s Outdoor School at Lake George, New York.

O’Keeffe’s years as a young student were marked by the release of the first easy-to-use handheld cameras that made photography more widely available. This amateur photograph shows a 21-year-old O’Keeffe enjoying the day on a boat with her friends.

Text from the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum Instagram website

 

Georgia O'Keeffe (American, 1887-1986) 'Stieglitz at Lake George' c. 1923

 

Georgia O’Keeffe (American, 1887-1986)
Stieglitz at Lake George
c. 1923
Gelatin silver print
Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe Museum

 

 

This double exposure – produced when two images are captured on the same frame of film – shows two views of the Stieglitz family property at Lake George, New York. In the vertical image, Alfred Stieglitz walks ahead on a path, while the horizontal image shows an expanse of the family’s summer residence. Though the double exposure was probably unintentional, O’Keeffe kept this photograph for more than 60 years, suggesting she found the image noteworthy even though it was the result of operator error. Her later photographic practice also demonstrated a sense of certainty in her own visual instincts over and above the rules of technique.

Large print label to the exhibition

 

Georgia O'Keeffe (American, 1887-1986) 'The Black Place' c. 1970

 

Georgia O’Keeffe (American, 1887-1986)
The Black Place
c. 1970
Black-and-white Polaroid
Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe
Georgia O’Keeffe Papers

 

Georgia O'Keeffe (American, 1887-1986) 'Small Purple Hills' 1934

 

Georgia O’Keeffe (American, 1887-1986)
Small Purple Hills
1934
Oil on panel
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas

 

 

Beginning in 1929, O’Keeffe spent part of almost every year in New Mexico until moving there permanently in 1949. Her beloved Southwestern landscape was a continual source of inspiration. “I never seem to get over my excitement in walking about here – I always find new places or see the old ones differently,” she wrote in 1943. O’Keeffe’s paintings, such as Small Purple Hills, conveyed her pleasure in the forms and colours of New Mexico. These same vistas would become the subjects of her photographs. In photography, O’Keeffe continued the formal exploration of those places that had ignited her artistic passions.

Large print label to the exhibition

 

Georgia O'Keeffe (American, 1887-1986) 'Red Hill and White Shell' 1938

 

Georgia O’Keeffe (American, 1887-1986)
Red Hill and White Shell
1938
Oil on canvas
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston Gift of Isabel B. Wilson in memory of her mother, Alice Pratt Brown

 

 

Red Hill and White Shell embodies O’Keeffe’s experiments with the fresh colours and dynamism of the natural world. Using the dual elements of a massive sandstone mesa and a small iridescent shell, the painting expresses attentiveness to environmental forms, both great and small. O’Keeffe’s careful abstractions in both painting and photography strove for a perfect union of aesthetic order and emotional expression. She wrote, “It is only by selection, by elimination, by emphasis that we get at the real meaning of things.”

Large print label to the exhibition

 

LIFE magazine (publisher) "Georgia O'Keeffe Turns Dead Bones to Live Art" February 14, 1938

 

LIFE magazine (publisher)
“Georgia O’Keeffe Turns Dead Bones to Live Art”
February 14, 1938
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston: Courtesy of the Hirsch Library

 

 

During O’Keeffe’s lifetime, articles in newspapers and magazines made her face as recognisable to the public as her art, linking O’Keeffe, the woman, to the landscapes and objects she painted. This LIFE essay from 1938 juxtaposes the artist’s Horse’s Head with Pink Rose (1930) with three photos of her handling bones from New Mexico, presenting her art and her life as synonymous.

Large print label to the exhibition

 

Georgia O'Keeffe (American, 1887-1986) 'Untitled (Ghost Ranch Cliffs)' About 1940

 

Georgia O’Keeffe (American, 1887-1986)
Untitled (Ghost Ranch Cliffs)
About 1940
Graphite on paper
Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe
Gift of the Georgia O’Keeffe Foundation
© Georgia O’Keeffe Museum

 

 

Like her photographs, Ghost Ranch Cliffs reveals O’Keeffe’s restless experimentation with composition. Drawing upon lessons from her teacher, Arthur Wesley Dow, O’Keeffe would frame and reframe her landscape sketches, searching for the most expressive arrangement of forms. Accustomed to framing on paper, O’Keeffe’s transition to framing with a camera was a natural one.

Large print label to the exhibition

 

Todd Webb (American, 1905-2000) 'Georgia O'Keeffe in Salita Door' July 1956, printed later and Georgia O'Keeffe (American, 1887-1986) 'Todd Webb in the Salita Door' July 1956, printed later

 

Todd Webb (American, 1905-2000)
Georgia O’Keeffe in Salita Door
July 1956, printed later
Inkjet print
Courtesy of the Todd Webb Archive

Georgia O’Keeffe (American, 1887-1986)
Todd Webb in the Salita Door
July 1956, printed later
Inkjet print
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston Museum
Purchases funded by the Director’s Accessions Endowment

 

 

In 1955 O’Keeffe’s interest in beginning a photographic practice was sparked by a visit from her friend, photographer Todd Webb. Over the next few summers, Webb visited O’Keeffe in New Mexico, and the pair photographed together, often trading his cameras back and forth. Here, the friends took turns posing for each other in O’Keeffe’s Abiquiú courtyard. “As you can see, you are a very good portrait photographer,” Webb wrote encouragingly to O’Keeffe. “I like the one of me in the doorway very much.”

Large print label to the exhibition

 

Georgia O'Keeffe (American, 1887-1986) 'Seagram Building, New York' 1958-1965

 

Georgia O’Keeffe (American, 1887-1986)
Seagram Building, New York
1958-1965
Gelatin silver print
Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe
© Georgia O’Keeffe Museum

 

 

Like her paintings of New York, many of O’Keeffe’s photographs of the city explore aspects of its monumentality and modernity. “One can’t paint New York as it is, but rather as it is felt,” she noted. O’Keeffe took this photo of the architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s minimalist Seagram Building soon after it opened. Her dramatic, low camera angle presents the structure’s innovative vertical beams as endless lines stretching into the sky. Her view of the Chrysler Building [see first image in the posting] seems to grapple with a related experience, as a sense of quiet intimacy coexists with the vast scale and loftiness of the modern urban environment.

Large print label to the exhibition

 

Todd Webb (American, 1905-2000) 'Georgia O'Keeffe Reviewing Photographs' 1961, printed later

 

Todd Webb (American, 1905-2000)
Georgia O’Keeffe Reviewing Photographs
1961, printed later
Inkjet print
Courtesy of the Todd Webb Archive
© Todd Webb Archive, Portland, Maine, USA

 

 

Unlike most photographers, O’Keeffe was unconcerned with creating perfect photographic prints. More interested in the image than the final print, she used her instant Polaroid camera, printed her work at drugstores, or asked Todd Webb to create test prints or enlarged contact sheets of her pictures. These approaches did not align with the norms of contemporary art photography, yet they match O’Keeffe’s larger artistic practice.

Text from the Denver Art Museum website

 

 

Reframing

Georgia O'Keeffe (American, 1887-1986) 'Sugar Cane Fields and Clouds' March 1939

 

Georgia O’Keeffe (American, 1887-1986)
Sugar Cane Fields and Clouds
March 1939
Gelatin silver print
Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe
© Georgia O’Keeffe Museum

 

 

In 1939, O’Keeffe accepted an invitation from an advertising company to go to Hawaii to produce paintings for the Hawaiian Pineapple Company. She kept these photographs for the remaining five decades of her life. The “Hawaii snaps,” as she referred to them, capture subject matter that is quintessentially O’Keeffe – dramatic landforms and perfect flower blooms.

Large print label to the exhibition

 

Georgia O'Keeffe (American, 1887-1986) 'Lava Arch, Wai'anapanapa State Park' March 1939

 

Georgia O’Keeffe (American, 1887-1986)
Lava Arch, Wai’anapanapa State Park March
1939
Gelatin silver prints
Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe
© Georgia O’Keeffe Museum

 

 

O’Keeffe made her first significant body of photographs on her 1939 trip to Hawaii. These photographs make clear that O’Keeffe had an intuitive interest in the photographic frame. Later, reframing would become a central tool in her sustained exploration of the medium.

Large print label to the exhibition

 

Though a handful of scattered snapshots made before 1939 can be attributed to O’Keeffe, her trip to Hawaii that year produced her first significant body of photographs. From this group of images, you can see O’Keeffe already framing and reframing the same landscape. These early photographs reveal that reframing was a method she intuitively brought to the medium and not one she learned from others nearly two decades later.

Text from the Denver Art Museum website

 

 Georgia O'Keeffe (American, 1887-1986) 'Natural Stone Arch near Leho'ula Beach, 'Aleamai' March 1939

 Georgia O'Keeffe (American, 1887-1986) 'Natural Stone Arch near Leho'ula Beach, 'Aleamai' March 1939

 

Georgia O’Keeffe (American, 1887-1986)
Natural Stone Arch near Leho’ula Beach, ‘Aleamai
March 1939
Gelatin silver prints
Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe
© Georgia O’Keeffe Museum

 

 

Here, O’Keeffe uses subtle reframing to seek an ideal expression of her experience of the place. She works with four boldly simplified elements – arch, water, sky, and coast – within a square picture area. In the top image, O’Keeffe uses the shoreline to bisect the middle of the picture plane, resulting in a composition that feels natural and balanced. In the bottom image, she has raised the shoreline within the frame, compressing the ocean, arch, and sky. How does your experience of the picture change because of her compositional choices?

Large print label to the exhibition

 

Georgia O'Keeffe (American, 1887-1986) 'Black Lava Bridge, Hana Coast No. 2' 1939

 

Georgia O’Keeffe (American, 1887-1986)
Black Lava Bridge, Hana Coast No. 2
1939
Oil paint on canvas
Honolulu Museum of Art: Gift of the Georgia O’Keeffe Foundation, 1994, 7893.1. © Georgia O’Keeffe Museum

 

 

O’Keeffe’s small oil painting Black Lava Bridge, Hana Coast No. 2 depicts the same coastline as her nearby photographs. Compared to the square pictures, the painting’s wider, lateral format emphasises the massy character of the rock formation itself, drawing our attention to its horizontality and relationship with the water.

Large print label to the exhibition

 

Georgia O'Keeffe (American, 1887-1986) 'Wai'anapanapa Black Sand Beach' March 1939

Georgia O'Keeffe (American, 1887-1986) 'Wai'anapanapa Black Sand Beach' March 1939

 

Georgia O’Keeffe (American, 1887-1986)
Wai’anapanapa Black Sand Beach
March 1939
Gelatin silver prints
Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe
© Georgia O’Keeffe Museum

 

 

In many of her letters home from Maui, O’Keeffe described her desire to photograph the island’s landscape and vistas. “The black sands of Hawaii – have something of a photograph about them,” she wrote. Perhaps the artist was responding to the chromatic simplicity of lacy white sea foam on black sand. Yet, there is also a notable relationship between O’Keeffe’s attraction to reframing and the constantly changing, expressive compositions created by nature as the edges of waves skim over the beach. Here, she seems to explore exactly that visual potential.

Large print label to the exhibition

 

Todd Webb (American, 1905-2000) 'Georgia O'Keeffe with Camera' 1959, printed later

 

Todd Webb (American, 1905-2000)
Georgia O’Keeffe with Camera
1959, printed later
Inkjet print
Todd Webb Archive
© Todd Webb Archive, Portland, Maine, USA

 

 

In 1940, O’Keeffe purchased a cottage on Ghost Ranch, northwest of Abiquiú, New Mexico. Ghost Ranch would become her summer and fall home – a place of solitude where she concentrated on painting. In 1945 she purchased a home in Abiquiú, where she would spend the winter and spring seasons. She moved to the Southwest permanently in 1949. In the mid-1950s, O’Keeffe took up the camera in earnest to continue her relentless search for ideal artistic expression. She made most of her photographs on or near her Abiquiú property.

Large print label to the exhibition

 

Georgia O'Keeffe (American, 1887-1986) 'Garage Vigas and Studio Door' July 1956

 

Georgia O’Keeffe (American, 1887-1986)
Garage Vigas and Studio Door
July 1956
Gelatin silver print
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Anonymous Gift, 1977
© 2022 Georgia O’Keeffe Museum / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

 

Georgia O'Keeffe (American, 1887-1986) 'Studio Door' July 1956

 

Georgia O’Keeffe (American, 1887-1986)
Studio Door
July 1956
Gelatin silver print
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Anonymous Gift, 1977
© 2022 Georgia O’Keeffe Museum / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

 

 

The Abiquiú studio door is a subject unique to O’Keeffe’s photography. In this series of photographs, she explored ways to visually compress the subject into two dimensions using the arrangement of forms within the frame. Photographing her studio door from a vantage point inside her garage (which is located across an open courtyard), she positioned her camera to include more or less of the garage ceiling. The linear pattern of vigas (round roof beams) and latillas (ceiling slats) change the way space seems to work in the picture, moving from three-dimensional depth to increasingly flattened planes of form.

Large print label to the exhibition

 

Georgia O'Keeffe (American, 1887-1986) Salita Door, Patio 1956-1957

 

Georgia O’Keeffe (American, 1887-1986)
Salita Door, Patio
1956-1957
Gelatin silver print
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the Lane Collection
© Georgia O’Keeffe Museum
Image © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

 

“As I climbed and walked about in the ruin, I found a patio with a very pretty well house and bucket to draw up water. It was a good-sized patio with a long wall with a door on one side. That wall with a door in it was something I had to have.”

~ Georgia O’Keeffe

 

On many occasions, O’Keeffe claimed that the dark salita door – the door leading into her salita, or sitting room – was the reason she purchased her Abiquiú home. She depicted this door in her work with notable frequency, producing 23 paintings and drawings from 1946 until 1960 and numerous photographs beginning in 1956. “It’s a curse – the way I feel I must continually go on with that door,” she noted.

Text from the Denver Art Museum website

 

Georgia O'Keeffe (American, 1887-1986) Salita Door, Patio 1956-1957

 

Georgia O’Keeffe (American, 1887-1986)
Salita Door, Patio
1956-1957
Gelatin silver print
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Anonymous Gift, 1977
© Georgia O’Keeffe Museum

 

 

On many occasions, O’Keeffe claimed that the salita door was the reason she purchased her Abiquiú property. This interior door separates the central patio from the salita, or sitting room. O’Keeffe used the salita as a workroom and storage space for her paintings, making the door a physical and metaphorical link between her home and her art. “I’m always trying to paint that door – I never quite get it,” O’Keeffe wrote. Her 23 paintings and drawings of the door were followed by a series of photographs.

Large print label to the exhibition

 

This door separates the central patio from the salita, or sitting room, which O’Keeffe used as a workroom and storage space for her paintings. The door can be seen as a physical and metaphorical link between her home and her art. “I’m always trying to paint that door – I never quite get it,” O’Keeffe wrote.

Text from the Denver Art Museum website

 

Georgia O'Keeffe (American, 1887-1986) 'Patio and Zaguan' 1956-1957

 

Georgia O’Keeffe (American, 1887-1986)
Patio and Zaguan
1956-1957
Gelatin silver print
Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe
© Georgia O’Keeffe Museum

 

 

The multiple doors and windows of the central patio in O’Keeffe’s Abiquiú home lent themselves to experiments in reframing. By moving the position and orientation of her camera, the artist could explore a huge variety of precise compositions in her own domestic space. Here, she turned toward the entryway of the zaguan – a central passage between the interior courtyard and the exterior of the house. O’Keeffe’s reflection, sometimes visible in a window at the left of the frame, captures the artist carefully framing the scene.

Large print label to the exhibition

 

Georgia O'Keeffe (American, 1887-1986) 'Salita Door' 1956-1958

 

Georgia O’Keeffe (American, 1887-1986)
Salita Door
1956-1958
Gelatin silver print
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Anonymous Gift

 

 

One of O’Keeffe’s first photographs of her Abiquiú, New Mexico home was a carefully and beautifully rendered image of the salita door in her courtyard. In the picture, the dark rectangle of the door breaks the adobe wall. A long, sleek shadow cuts diagonally through the frame, and a silvery sage bush fills the bottom left corner.

Large print label to the exhibition

 

Georgia O'Keeffe (American, 1887-1986) 'Ladder against Studio Wall in Snow' 1959-1960

 

Georgia O’Keeffe (American, 1887-1986)
Ladder against Studio Wall in Snow
1959-1960
Gelatin silver print
Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe, N.M.
© Georgia O’Keeffe Museum

 

Georgia O'Keeffe (American, 1887-1986) 'Big Sage (Artemisia tridentata)' 1957

 

Georgia O’Keeffe (American, 1887-1986)
Big Sage (Artemisia tridentata)
Big Sage (Artemisia tridentata)
Big Sage (Artemisia tridentata)
1957
Gelatin silver prints
Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe
© Georgia O’Keeffe Museum

 

 

In 1957, O’Keeffe produced a group of eight photographs of big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata) near Barranca, New Mexico. She pictured the three, tightly grouped shrubs at close range, in contrast to the rolling horizon, or framed against the packed ground. Moving her camera with each capture, she altered the arrangement of the forms and changed the overall organisation of the scene. The resulting images are radically different, though each contains the same basic elements.

Large print label to the exhibition

 

Georgia O'Keeffe (American, 1887-1986) 'Big Sage (Artemisia tridentata)' 1957

 

Georgia O’Keeffe (American, 1887-1986)
Big Sage (Artemisia tridentata)
1957
Gelatin silver print
Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe
© Georgia O’Keeffe Museum

 

Georgia O'Keeffe (American, 1887-1986) 'White House Overlook' and 'Spider Rock' July 1957

 

Georgia O’Keeffe (American, 1887-1986)
White House Overlook
White House Overlook
Spider Rock
July 1957
Gelatin silver prints
Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe
© Georgia O’Keeffe Museum

 

 

While O’Keeffe organised most of her photographic compositions within single film frames, a few noteworthy examples demonstrate her interest in testing that limitation. In July 1957, O’Keeffe visited Canyon de Chelly, Arizona, making three images at White House Overlook. Together, the images form a panorama, moving from the starburst form of a crag, through the winding canyon below, to the tall sandstone spire of Spider Rock. O’Keeffe’s choice to use vertical frames to capture a sweeping horizontal vista is distinctive. What might have interested her about this approach?

Large print label to the exhibition

 

In July 1957, O’Keeffe visited Canyon de Chelly, Arizona, and produced three images at White House Overlook. Together, the three images form a panorama, moving from the starburst form of a crag, through the winding canyon below, to the tall sandstone spire of Spider Rock. O’Keeffe’s choice to capture a sweeping, horizontal vista through three vertical photos is another characteristic of her photography.

Text from the Denver Art Museum website

 

 

Light

Georgia O'Keeffe (American, 1887-1986) 'Dark Rocks' 1938

 

Georgia O’Keeffe (American, 1887-1986)
Dark Rocks
1938
Oil on canvas
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
Gift of Patricia Barrett Carter

 

 

The painting Dark Rocks exemplifies O’Keeffe’s talent for abstracting natural forms. Her rendering of stacked rocks includes precisely placed areas of highlight and shadow. These formal elements result in an ambiguous relationship between positive and negative space. What is solid and what is mere shadow? This play of depth and weight is also evident in O’Keeffe’s photographs of her chow chows, which she rendered in her art as abstract round forms – much like these rocks. O’Keeffe often used light and dark to explore the qualities of form, dimension, and depth.

Large print label to the exhibition

 

Georgia O'Keeffe (American, 1887-1986) 'Bo II (Bo-Bo)' 1960-1961

 

Georgia O’Keeffe (American, 1887-1986)
Bo II (Bo-Bo)
1960-1961
Gelatin silver print
Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe

 

 

In these photographs, O’Keeffe’s chow Bo II (also known as Bo-Bo) curls up on sun-bleached tree trunks outside the artist’s studio door. The dog’s body is a dark, weighty form juxtaposed in various ways against the light cylindrical forms of the tree trunks. At the same time, the shadow of a ladder suggests the dog’s form could read as a shadow – a negative space without depth or weight.

Large print label to the exhibition

 

Georgia O'Keeffe (American, 1887-1986) 'Untitled (Dog)' 1951

 

Georgia O’Keeffe (American, 1887-1986)
Untitled (Dog)
1951
Graphite on paper
Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe
Gift of the Georgia O’Keeffe Foundation

 

 

O’Keeffe owned eight chow chows – seven blue and one red – over the course of more than 20 years. She received her first two, Bo and Chia, as Christmas presents in 1951. O’Keeffe often described her dogs in formal terms. She wrote to her sister Claudia, “I have two new chow puppies – half grown… not quite blue and against the half snow has a frosty colour – very pretty.” The artist appreciated the dogs’ dark fur in contrast to the bright New Mexico environment and their ambiguous shape when they lay curled on the ground.

Large print label to the exhibition

 

Georgia O'Keeffe (American, 1887-1986) 'Forbidding Canyon, Glen Canyon' September 1964

 

Georgia O’Keeffe (American, 1887-1986)
Forbidding Canyon, Glen Canyon
September 1964
Black-and-white Polaroids
Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe

 

 

During her second trip to Glen Canyon in Utah and Arizona, O’Keeffe and her group camped for four nights at a picturesque location near Forbidding Canyon. There, the monumental form of two cliffs meeting in a “V” shape provided a spectacular view each morning. The strong morning light turned one cliff into a bright white form, while the other, cast in shade, became a dark mass. As the sun moved across the morning sky, the shadows quickly shifted. O’Keeffe’s Polaroids tracked the changing proportions of dark and light in this dynamic scene, much like she had looked at the surf on the black sands of Maui 25 years earlier.

Large print label to the exhibition

 

Georgia O'Keeffe (American, 1887-1986) 'In the Patio VIII' 1950

 

Georgia O’Keeffe (American, 1887-1986)
In the Patio VIII
1950
Oil on canvas
Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe
Gift of the Burnett Foundation and the Georgia O’Keeffe Foundation
© Georgia O’Keeffe Museum

 

 

In the Patio VIII depicts the interior courtyard of O’Keeffe’s Abiquiú home. In the painting, she uses a bold band of a shadow to pick out the geometry of the space. The dark angular shape cuts across the lower half of the painting, differentiating the planes of walls and ground. It is as if the shadow lends the space a three-dimensional nature. For O’Keeffe, shadows were entities that could define a composition.

Large print label to the exhibition

 

Georgia O'Keeffe (American, 1887-1986) 'North Patio Corridor' 1956-1957

 

Georgia O’Keeffe (American, 1887-1986)
North Patio Corridor
1956-1957
Gelatin silver print
Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe
© Georgia O’Keeffe Museum

 

 

The door, wall, and sagebrush at the north corner of O’Keeffe’s Abiquiú patio presented the artist with an eye-catching array of lines, shadows, and shapes. Characteristically, she used these features of her environment relentlessly to search for the perfect arrangement of forms.

Large print label to the exhibition

 

Georgia O'Keeffe (American, 1887-1986) 'Ladder against Studio Wall with White Bowl' and 'Ladder against Studio Wall with Black Chow (Bo-Bo)' 1959-1960

 

Georgia O’Keeffe (American, 1887-1986)
Ladder against Studio Wall with White Bowl
Ladder against Studio Wall with Black Chow (Bo-Bo)
1959-1960
Gelatin silver prints
Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe
© Georgia O’Keeffe Museum

 

 

O’Keeffe produced these two photographs in rapid succession. Often, she rendered light as a bright white form and shadow as a weighty dark object. By placing a white bowl to the left of the ladder in one frame and one of her pet dogs to the right in the other, O’Keeffe created startlingly different compositions through one minor change.

Large print label to the exhibition

 

Georgia O'Keeffe (American, 1887-1986) 'Ladder against Studio Wall with White Bowl' 1959-1960

 

Georgia O’Keeffe (American, 1887-1986)
Ladder against Studio Wall with White Bowl
1959-1960
Gelatin silver prints
Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe
© Georgia O’Keeffe Museum

 

Georgia O'Keeffe (American, 1887-1986) 'Skull, Ghost Ranch' 1961-1972

 

Georgia O’Keeffe (American, 1887-1986)
Skull, Ghost Ranch
1961-1972
Chromogenic print
Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe, N.M.
© Georgia O’Keeffe Museum

 

 

O’Keeffe shared her photographs with family and friends, often mailing prints with handwritten notes on the back. For the artist, these photographs provided her friends with glimpses of her home and artistic world. Skull, Ghost Ranch was printed multiple times. On the verso of one print, O’Keeffe hand wrote to an unknown acquaintance, “Another present this is. It is beside the Studio door. Pretty isn’t it!”

“It never occurs to me that [skulls] have anything to do with death. They are very lively,” O’Keeffe noted. “I have enjoyed them very much in relation to the sky.” For O’Keeffe, the artistry in rendering skulls lay in juxtaposition. The harmonious relation of the skull’s form to other elements resulted in an artistic play of light and shadow and positive and negative space that sustained her interest.

Large print label to the exhibition

 

Georgia O'Keeffe (American, 1887-1986) 'Goat's Head' 1957

 

Georgia O’Keeffe (American, 1887-1986)
Goat’s Head
1957
Oil on canvas
McNay Art Museum, San Antonio
Gift of the Estate of Tom Slick

 

 

Skulls were a favourite subject for O’Keeffe, appearing in her paintings from the 1930s until the 1960s and in her photographs until the 1970s. These bones, however, were never depicted in isolation. O’Keeffe’s skulls were always juxtaposed with other elements: cloth backgrounds, desert landscapes, architectural forms, and blue skies. In Goat’s Head, O’Keeffe presents the skull against alternating planes of light and shadow, suggesting a retreating desert landscape. The careful cropping of the composition, like a photograph, unites the forms of the skull and landscape and encourages a comparison of bone and background.

Large print label to the exhibition

 

Georgia O'Keeffe (American, 1887-1986) 'Roofless Room' 1959-1960

 

Georgia O’Keeffe (American, 1887-1986)
Roofless Room
1959-1960
Gelatin silver print
Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe
© Georgia O’Keeffe Museum

 

Georgia O'Keeffe (American, 1887-1986) 'Roofless Room' 1959-1960

 

Georgia O’Keeffe (American, 1887-1986)
Roofless Room
1959-1960
Gelatin silver print
Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe
© Georgia O’Keeffe Museum

 

 

Streaked by morning shadows, O’Keeffe’s photographs of her “roofless room” at Abiquiú are stunning studies of the dimensional quality of shadows. As the sun’s position changed throughout the day, the shadows cast by the latillas (ceiling slats) crept down the walls and across the bare floor, reframing the scene. In each image, O’Keeffe uses these dramatic shadows to articulate the planes and angles of the room.

Large print label to the exhibition

 

 

Seasons

In the Southwest, each season brings subtle and dramatic shifts in the quality of sunlight and the appearance of the landscape. While full, leafy trees cast deep shadows in the summer, the same place offers bare branches and evenly lit, snowy ground in the low sun of winter. O’Keeffe photographed her environment in all seasons, allowing the change in nature to act as an inherent formal characteristic in her artwork.

 

Georgia O'Keeffe (American, 1887-1986) 'Road from Abiquiú' 1964-1968

 

Georgia O’Keeffe (American, 1887-1986)
Road from Abiquiú
1964-1968
Black-and-white Polaroids
Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe

 

 

“The valley is wide and flat with a row of bare trees on the far side – masking the river that I do not see because of them – then a very fine long mountain rises beyond. It is all frosty this morning – The sun this time of year hits the mountain first – then the trees – with a faint touch of pink – then spreads slowly across the valley as sun light.” O’Keeffe’s sensitivity to the seasonal change outside her bedroom windows is evident in her multiple photographs of those views, which capture the landscape in winter, spring, summer, and fall.

Large print label to the exhibition

 

Georgia O'Keeffe (American, 1887-1986) 'Road out Bedroom Window' Probably 1957

Georgia O'Keeffe (American, 1887-1986) 'Road out Bedroom Window' Probably 1957

 

Georgia O’Keeffe (American, 1887-1986)
Road out Bedroom Window
Road out Bedroom Window

Probably 1957
Gelatin silver prints
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Anonymous Gift, 1977

 

 

Several extant photographs of the mesa and road outside O’Keeffe’s east window track the view at different times of the year. In addition to overtly reframing the scene, the artist allowed nature’s changes to alter the relationships of form and light within the composition. The strong summer sun cast hard shadows onto the silvery road in one photograph, while in another, the diffuse light of spring highlights the new growth of the thin foliage.

Large print label to the exhibition

 

Georgia O'Keeffe (American, 1887-1986) 'Road Past the View' 1964

 

Georgia O’Keeffe (American, 1887-1986)
Road Past the View
1964
Oil on canvas
Collection of Carl & Marilynn Thoma

 

 

In her 1976 Viking Press book, titled Georgia O’Keeffe, the artist included the following text next to the seductive painting Road Past the View: “The road fascinates me with its ups and downs and finally its wide sweep as it speeds toward the wall of my hilltop to go past me. I had made two or three snaps of it with a camera.” It is notable that this anecdote about photography was included in a book with limited text covering an impressive 60-year career. O’Keeffe was sure to write photography into her story.

Large print label to the exhibition

 

Todd Webb (American, 1905-2000) 'Georgia O'Keeffe Photographing the Chama River' 1961, printed later

 

Todd Webb (American, 1905-2000)
Georgia O’Keeffe Photographing the Chama River
1961, printed later
Inkjet print
Courtesy of the Todd Webb Archive

 

 

In 1957 Todd Webb wrote to O’Keeffe, “Will we stand on the bridge and watch the Chama in flood?” The pair often visited this spot, located between O’Keeffe’s Ghost Ranch property and her main house in Abiquiú. In these three frames, Webb captured O’Keeffe as she moved along the rise, reframing the river view with her camera.

Large print label to the exhibition

 

Georgia O’Keeffe and Todd Webb met in 1946. That year she was the first woman to be honored with a retrospective exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). Webb, a photographer and protégé of the artist’s husband Alfred Stieglitz, documented the exhibition. That same year, Webb’s urban scenes were shown at the Museum of the City of New York, curated by influential photographic historian Beaumont Newhall. Despite these professional accomplishments, it was also a time of loss as Stieglitz died in July of that year. They went on to have a long friendship and Webb visited O’Keeffe in New Mexico multiple times. Their friendship is documented in a series of photographs on exhibit alongside works by O’Keeffe.

In 1961, O’Keeffe traveled with Lucille and Todd Webb along with a dozen other friends on a ten-day raft trip down the Colorado River to Glen Canyon, Utah. After the trip, Webb presented O’Keeffe with an album of photographs from their shared experience. With his camera focused on the artist, he also framed the extraordinary beauty of the canyons accessible only on the water…

In a 1981 letter to the photographer, O’Keeffe remembered a day in 1946 which solidified their friendship. She was packing artwork for her MoMA exhibition. “I had the world to myself to pack up thirty or forty paintings to go. It looked like quite a formidable task… When you saw the problem you started right in to help me. I may have seen you before, talking with Stieglitz, but I never spoke with you. However, I will never forget your helping me for hours – a person, almost a stranger – till we had everything packed and ready to go.”

Anonymous. “Todd Webb,” on the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum website 2016 [Online] Cited 07/04/2023

 

Georgia O'Keeffe (American, 1887-1986) 'Chama River' 1957-1963

 

Georgia O’Keeffe (American, 1887-1986)
Chama River
1957-1963
Gelatin silver prints
Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe

 

 

Located between O’Keeffe’s Abiquiú home and Ghost Ranch, this south-facing elevation overlooks the Chama River as it makes a tight bend. O’Keeffe photographed the view in a variety of seasons, capturing the changing depth of the rushing water, the density of foliage, and the deepness of shadows throughout the year.

Large print label to the exhibition

 

Georgia O'Keeffe (American, 1887-1986) 'Jimsonweed (Datura stramonium)' 1964-1968

 

Georgia O’Keeffe (American, 1887-1986)
Jimsonweed (Datura stramonium)
1964-1968
Black-and-white Polaroid
Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe
© Georgia O’Keeffe Museum

 

 

O’Keeffe’s photographs of jimsonweed flowers exemplify her interest in seasonal change. The trumpet-like flowers of the jimsonweed began blooming around her home in late summer and continued through the first frost. The flowers obey both the cycle of the seasons and a shorter daily cycle, opening in the afternoon and closing with the rising sun the next day.

O’Keeffe’s many photographs of jimsonweed present the bright white flower in contrast to its dark surrounding leaves. Individually or in groups of blooms, jimsonweed signals O’Keeffe’s ongoing fascination with nature’s transformation in all its forms.

“Well – I made you take time to look at what I saw and when you took time to really notice my flower 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 scolded. For the artist, her renderings of flowers were about detail, light and shade, and formal juxtaposition. Though many critics read other meanings into these works, O’Keeffe maintained that they signified only the artistic potential of flowers. Here, she distills their potential not with pencil or paint, but with her camera.

Large print label to the exhibition

 

Georgia O'Keeffe (American, 1887-1986) 'White Flower' 1929

 

Georgia O’Keeffe (American, 1887-1986)
White Flower
1929
Oil on canvas
The Cleveland Museum of Art, Hinman B. Hurlbut Collection

 

 

Georgia O’Keeffe is perhaps best known for her paintings of flowers. Their magnified structures fill the canvas and absorb the viewer in her unique vision of nature. She magnified her painted flowers so that people would “be surprised into taking time to look at it.” O’Keeffe rendered her blooms at their peak, capturing this fleeting view of nature in enveloping detail.

Large print label to the exhibition

 

 

Cincinnati Art Museum
953 Eden Park Drive
Cincinnati, Ohio 45202
Phone: (513) 721-ARTS (2787)

Opening hours:
Open Tuesday – Sunday 11am – 5pm
Closed Mondays

Cincinnati Art Museum website

LIKE ART BLART ON FACEBOOK

Back to top

07
Jul
17

Exhibition: ‘Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern’ at the Brooklyn Museum, New York

Exhibition dates: 3rd March – 23rd July 2017

 

Hilda Belcher (American 1881-1963) 'The Checkered Dress (Young Georgia O'Keeffe)' 1907

 

Hilda Belcher (American, 1881-1963)
The Checkered Dress (Young Georgia O’Keeffe)
1907
Oil on canvas

 

 

I love this woman. Such style, class and talent.

Fabulous art, clothes and photographs. An icon in every sense of the word.

Marcus

.
Many thankx to the Brooklyn Museum for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946) 'Georgia O'Keeffe at 291' 1917

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946)
Georgia O’Keeffe at 291
1917
Platinum print
9 5/8 x 7 5/8 in. (24.3 x 19.4cm)
Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe, N.M.; Gift of The Georgia O’Keeffe Foundation
© Georgia O’Keeffe Museum

 

Georgia O'Keeffe (American, 1887-1986) 'Blue #2' 1916

 

Georgia O’Keeffe (American, 1887-1986)
Blue #2
1916
Watercolour on paper
15 7/8 x 11 in. (40.3 x 27.8cm)
Brooklyn Museum; Bequest of Mary T. Cockcroft, by exchange
Photo: Sarah DeSantis, Brooklyn Museum

 

 

“Even in photographs in which O’Keeffe gazes directly at the camera, she telegraphs an elegant aloofness – not a coldness, exactly, but a demand to be seen from a distance, like the vast Southwestern landscapes that she made her own. Looking into her face repeated on gallery walls, I was reminded of the way a horizon invites one’s eye to the farthest possible point. Our gaze shifts; the horizon stays the same.”

Haley Mlotek. “Georgia O’Keeffe’s Powerful Personal Style,” on the The NewYorker website April 6, 2017 [Online] Cited 21/12/2021

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946) 'Georgia O'Keeffe' 1918

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946)
Georgia O’Keeffe
1918, printed 1920s
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Alfred Stieglitz Collection
© Board of Trustees, National Gallery of Art, Washington

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946) 'Georgia O'Keeffe' c. 1920-22

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946)
Georgia O’Keeffe
c. 1920-22
Gelatin silver print
4 1/2 x 3 1/2 in. (11.4 x 9cm)
Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe, N.M.; Gift of The Georgia O’Keeffe Foundation
© Georgia O’Keeffe Museum

 

 

Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern takes a new look at how the renowned modernist artist proclaimed her progressive, independent lifestyle through a self-crafted public persona – including her clothing and the way she posed for the camera. The exhibition expands our understanding of O’Keeffe by focusing on her wardrobe, shown for the first time alongside key paintings and photographs. It confirms and explores her determination to be in charge of how the world understood her identity and artistic values.

In addition to selected paintings and items of clothing, the exhibition presents photographs of O’Keeffe and her homes by Alfred Stieglitz, Ansel Adams, Annie Leibovitz, Philippe Halsman, Yousuf Karsh, Cecil Beaton, Andy Warhol, Bruce Weber, and others. It also includes works that entered the Brooklyn collection following O’Keeffe’s first-ever museum exhibition – held at the Brooklyn Museum in 1927.

The exhibition is organised in sections that run from her early years, when O’Keeffe crafted a signature style of dress that dispensed with ornamentation; to her years in New York, in the 1920s and 1930s, when a black-and-white palette dominated much of her art and dress; and to her later years in New Mexico, where her art and clothing changed in response to the surrounding colours of the Southwestern landscape. The final section explores the enormous role photography played in the artist’s reinvention of herself in the Southwest, when a younger generation of photographers visited her, solidifying her status as a pioneer of modernism and as a contemporary style icon.

Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern is organised by guest curator Wanda M. Corn, Robert and Ruth Halperin Professor Emerita in Art History, Stanford University, and coordinated by Lisa Small, Curator of European Painting and Sculpture, Brooklyn Museum.

Text from the Brooklyn Museum website

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

Georgia O'Keeffe: Living Modern installation view

 

Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern installation view with Alfred Stieglitz’s Georgia O’Keeffe at 291 (1917) at left, and Gaston Lachaise’s sculpture Georgia O’Keeffe (1925-1927) at centre

 

Georgia O'Keeffe: Living Modern installation view

 

Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern installation view with her painting Clam and Mussel (1926) second left

 

Georgia O'Keeffe: Living Modern installation view

Georgia O'Keeffe: Living Modern installation view

 

Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern installation view with her painting Manhattan (1932) left, and Brooklyn Bridge (1949) right

 

Georgia O'Keeffe: Living Modern installation view

 

Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern installation view with her painting Rams Head, White Hollyhock – Hills (Rams Head and White Hollyhock, New Mexico) (1935) at right

 

Georgia O'Keeffe: Living Modern installation view

Georgia O'Keeffe: Living Modern installation view

 

Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern installation view with her painting In the Patio IX (1950) at right, and an Emilio Pucci dress second right

 

Georgia O'Keeffe: Living Modern installation view

 

Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern installation view with her painting The Mountain, New Mexico (1931) at left

 

Georgia O'Keeffe: Living Modern installation view

Georgia O'Keeffe: Living Modern installation view

Georgia O'Keeffe: Living Modern installation view

 

Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern installation view with Georgia O’Keeffe by Irving Penn (1948) second left, and Georgia O’Keeffe by Laura Gilpin (1953) at right

Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern installation views
© Jonathan Dorado

 

 

Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946) 'Georgia O'Keeffe' 1922

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946)
Georgia O’Keeffe
1922
Gelatin silver print
24.1 x 19.4cm
Art Institute of Chicago, Alfred Stieglitz Collection

 

Georgia O'Keeffe (American, 1887-1986) 'Pool in the Woods, Lake George' 1922

 

Georgia O’Keeffe (American, 1887-1986)
Pool in the Woods, Lake George
1922
Pastel on paper
17 x 27 1/2 in. (43.3 x 69.9cm)
Reynolda House Museum of American Art, Winston-Salem, N.C.; Gift of Barbara B. Millhouse in memory of E. Carter, Nancy Susan Reynolds, and Winifred Babcock
Courtesy of Reynolda House Museum of American Art, affiliated with Wake Forest University
© Georgia O’Keeffe Museum/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

 

Georgia O'Keeffe (American, 1887-1986) 'Black Pansy & Forget-Me-Nots (Pansy)' 1926

 

Georgia O’Keeffe (American, 1887-1986)
Black Pansy & Forget-Me-Nots (Pansy)
1926
Oil on canvas
27 1/8 x 12 1/4 in. (68.9 x 31.1cm)
Brooklyn Museum; Gift of Mrs. Alfred S. Rossin
Photo: Christine Gant, Brooklyn Museum

 

Gaston Lachaise (American (born France) 1882-1935) 'Georgia O’Keeffe' 1925-27

 

Gaston Lachaise (American born France, 1882-1935)
Georgia O’Keeffe
1925-27
Alabaster
H. 22 3/4 x W. 7 3/4 x D. 12 1/4 in. (57.8 x 19.7 x 31.1cm); including 5 3/4 in. high base
Weight 70lb (31.8kg)
Alfred Stieglitz Collection, 1949
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946) 'Georgia O'Keeffe, Prospect Mountain, Lake George' 1927

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946)
Georgia O’Keeffe, Prospect Mountain, Lake George
1927
Gelatin silver print
4 5/8 x 3 5/8 in. (11.8 x 9.3cm)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Alfred Stieglitz Collection
© Board of Trustees, National Gallery of Art, Washington

 

Attributed to Georgia O'Keeffe. 'Dress (Tunic and Underdress)' c. 1926

 

Attributed to Georgia O’Keeffe
Dress (Tunic and Underdress)
c. 1926
Ivory silk crepe
Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe, N.M.; Gift of Juan and Anna Marie Hamilton
Photo: © Gavin Ashworth

 

Georgia O'Keeffe (American, 1887-1986) 'Line and Curve' 1927

 

Georgia O’Keeffe (American, 1887-1986)
Line and Curve
1927
Oil on canvas
32 x 16 1/4 in. (81.2 x 41.2cm)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Alfred Stieglitz Collection, Bequest of Georgia O’Keeffe
© Board of Trustees, National Gallery of Art, Washington

 

Georgia O'Keeffe (American, 1887-1986) 'Clam and Mussel' 1926

 

Georgia O’Keeffe (American, 1887-1986)
Clam and Mussel
1926
Oil on canvas
48 1/8 × 29 7/9 in. (122.2 × 75.6cm)
Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe / Art Resource, NY
© ARS, NY The Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe

 

 

Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern offers a new look at the iconic American artist’s powerful ownership of her identity as an artist and a woman. This major exhibition examines the modernist persona that Georgia O’Keeffe crafted for herself through her art, her dress, and her progressive, independent lifestyle. It will mark the first time O’Keeffe’s understated yet remarkable wardrobe will be presented in dialogue with key paintings, photographs, jewellery, accessories, and ephemera. Opening on March 3, Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern represents a homecoming of sorts, as the artist had her first solo museum exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum, in 1927.

On view through July 23, 2017, Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern is part of A Year of Yes: Reimagining Feminism at the Brooklyn Museum, a yearlong project celebrating a decade of feminist thinking at the Brooklyn Museum.

In addition to a number of O’Keeffe’s key paintings and never-before-exhibited selections from her wardrobe, the exhibition will also feature portraits of her by such luminary photographers as Alfred Stieglitz, Ansel Adams, Philippe Halsman, Yousuf Karsh, Todd Webb, Cecil Beaton, Bruce Weber, Annie Leibovitz, and others. These images, along with the garments and artworks on view, testify to the ways that O’Keeffe learned to use photographic sittings as a way to construct her persona, framing her status as a pioneer of modernism and as a style icon.

“Fifteen years ago I learned that when Georgia O’Keeffe died and left her two homes to her estate, her closets were filled with her belongings. The O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe now owns the homes and their contents, but no one had yet studied the sixty years of dresses, coats, suits, casual wear, and accessories she left behind. I took on that task. The Georgia O’Keeffe who emerged from my research and is presented in this exhibition was an artist not only in her studio but also in her homemaking and self-fashioning,” says guest curator, Wanda M. Corn, Robert and Ruth Halperin Professor Emerita in Art History, Stanford University.

“This exhibition reveals O’Keeffe’s commitment to core principles associated with modernism – minimalism, seriality, simplification – not only in her art, but also in her distinctive style of dress,” says Lisa Small, Curator of European Painting and Sculpture, Brooklyn Museum, who serves as the exhibition’s in-house coordinator.

Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern opens with an introduction that demonstrates how O’Keeffe began to craft her signature clothing style as a high school student, dispensing with the bows and frills worn by young women at the time. The exhibition continues in four parts. The first is devoted to New York in the 1920s and ’30s, when she lived with Alfred Stieglitz and made many of her own clothes. It also examines Stieglitz’s multiyear, serial portrait project, which ultimately helped her to become one of the most photographed American artists in history and contributed to her understanding of photography’s power to shape her public image.

Her years in New Mexico comprise the second section, in which the desert landscape – surrounded by colour in the yellows, pinks, and reds of rocks and cliffs, and the blue sky – influenced her painting and dress palette. A small third section explores the influence and importance of Asian aesthetics in her personal style. The final section displays images made after Stieglitz’s era by photographers who came to visit her in the Southwest.

Press release from the Brooklyn Museum

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946) 'Georgia O'Keeffe' 1929

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946)
Georgia O’Keeffe
1929
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Alfred Stieglitz Collection
© Board of Trustees, National Gallery of Art, Washington

 

Georgia O'Keeffe (American, 1887-1986) 'Manhattan' 1932

 

Georgia O’Keeffe (American, 1887-1986)
Manhattan
1932
Oil on canvas
84 3/8 x 48 1/4 in. (214.3 x 122.6cm)
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.; Gift of The Georgia O’Keeffe Foundation
Photo: Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C./Art Resource, NY

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984) 'Georgia O'Keeffe and Orville Cox' 1937

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984)
Georgia O’Keeffe and Orville Cox
1937
Gelatin silver print
7 3/4 x 11 in. (19.7 x 27.9cm)
Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe, N.M.; Gift of The Georgia O’Keeffe Foundation
© 2016 The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust

 

Attributed to Georgia O'Keeffe. 'Blouse' c. early to mid-1930s

 

Attributed to Georgia O’Keeffe
Blouse
c. early to mid-1930s
White linen
Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe, N.M.; Gift of Juan and Anna Marie Hamilton
Photo: © Gavin Ashworth

 

Attributed to Georgia O'Keeffe. 'Dress with Matching Belt' c. 1930s

 

Attributed to Georgia O’Keeffe
Dress with Matching Belt
c. 1930s
Black wool, crepe and white silk
Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe, N.M.; Gift of Juan and Anna Marie Hamilton
Photo: © Gavin Ashworth

 

Georgia O'Keeffe (American, 1887-1986) 'The Mountain, New Mexico' 1931

 

Georgia O’Keeffe (American, 1887-1986)
The Mountain, New Mexico
1931
Oil on canvas
30 1/16 × 36 1/8 in. (76.4 × 91.8cm)
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York

 

Georgia O'Keeffe (American, 1887-1986) 'Rams Head, White Hollyhock - Hills' (Rams Head and White Hollyhock, New Mexico) 1935

 

Georgia O’Keeffe (American, 1887-1986)
Rams Head, White Hollyhock – Hills (Rams Head and White Hollyhock, New Mexico)
1935
Oil on canvas
30 x 36 in. (76.2 x 91.4cm)
Brooklyn Museum; Bequest of Edith and Milton Lowenthal
Photo: Brooklyn Museum

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984) 'Georgia O'Keeffe at Yosemite' 1938

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984)
Georgia O’Keeffe at Yosemite
1938
Gelatin silver print
5 3/4 x 3 3/8 in. (14.5 x 8.7cm)
Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe, N.M.; Gift of The Georgia O’Keeffe Foundation
© 2016 The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust

 

Georgia O'Keeffe (American, 1887-1986) 'Brooklyn Bridge' 1949

 

Georgia O’Keeffe (American, 1887-1986)
Brooklyn Bridge
1949
Oil on Masonite
48 x 35 7/8 in. (121.8 x 91.1cm)
Brooklyn Museum; Bequest of Mary Childs Draper
Photo: Brooklyn Museum

 

Georgia O'Keeffe (1887-1986) 'In the Patio IX' 1950

 

Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986)
In the Patio IX
1950
Oil on canvas mounted on panel
H- 30 x W- 40 in. (76.2 x 101.6cm)
The Jan T. and Marica Vilcek Collection
© The Vilcek Foundation

 

Laura Gilpin (American, 1891-1979) 'Georgia O'Keeffe' 1953

 

Laura Gilpin (American, 1891-1979)
Georgia O’Keeffe
1953
Gelatin silver print
24.1 x 19.4cm
Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe, N.M.
© 1979 Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, TX

 

Georgia O'Keeffe (American, 1887-1986) 'Patio with Cloud' 1956

 

Georgia O’Keeffe (American, 1887-1986)
Patio with Cloud
1956
Oil on canvas
36 x 30 in. (91.4 x 76.2cm)
Milwaukee Art Museum; Gift of Mrs. Edward R. Wehr
© Georgia O’Keeffe Museum/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Photo: P. Richard Eells

 

Todd Webb (American, 1905-2000) 'Georgia O'Keeffe on Ghost Ranch Portal, New Mexico' c. 1960s

 

Todd Webb (American, 1905-2000)
Georgia O’Keeffe on Ghost Ranch Portal, New Mexico
c. 1960s
Gelatin silver print
10 x 8 in. (25.4 x 20.3cm)
Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe, N.M.; Gift of The Georgia O’Keeffe Foundation
© Estate of Todd Webb, Portland, ME

 

'Padded Kimono (Tanzen)' c. 1960s-1970s

 

Padded Kimono (Tanzen)
c. 1960s-1970s
Silk with woven black and gray stripe
Inner garment: Kimono. White linen (?)
Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe, N.M.; Gift of Juan and Anna Marie Hamilton
Photo: © Gavin Ashworth

 

Bruce Weber (American, born 1946) 'Georgia O'Keeffe, Abiquiu, N.M.' 1984

 

Bruce Weber (American, born 1946)
Georgia O’Keeffe, Abiquiu, N.M.
1984
Gelatin silver print
14 x 11 in. (35.6 x 27.9cm)
Bruce Weber and Nan Bush Collection, New York
© Bruce Weber

 

'Emsley. Suit (Jacket, Pants, and Vest)' 1983

 

Emsley. Suit (Jacket, Pants, and Vest)
1983
Black wool
Inner garment: Lord & Taylor. Shirt
c. 1960s. White cotton
Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe, N.M.; Gift of Juan and Anna Marie Hamilton
Photo: © Gavin Ashworth

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984) 'Georgia O'Keeffe, Carmel Highlands, California' 1981

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984)
Georgia O’Keeffe, Carmel Highlands, California
1981
Gelatin silver print
10 1/8 x 13 1/8 in. (25.7 x 33.3cm)
Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe, N.M.; Gift of Juan and Anna Marie Hamilton
© 2016 The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust

 

'Georgia O'Keeffe: Living Modern' by Wanda Corn book cover 2017

 

Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern by Wanda Corn book cover 2017
Courtesy of Delmonico Books Prestel

 

 

Brooklyn Museum
200 Eastern Parkway
Brooklyn, NY 11238-6052
Phone: (718) 638-5000

Opening hours:
Wednesday – Sunday 11am – 6pm
Closed Mondays and Tuesdays
Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day

Brooklyn Museum website

LIKE ART BLART ON FACEBOOK

Back to top

28
Oct
16

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.

 

 

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

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946)
Untitled (O’Keeffe with sketchpad and watercolors)
1918
Silver gelatin print

 

 

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.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
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 [Online] Cited 17/02/2023

 

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

 

Georgia O’Keeffe (American, 1887-1986)
Sunrise
1916
Watercolour on paper
22.5 x 30.2cm
© 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 (American, 1887-1986)
No. 12 Special
1916
Charcoal on paper, 61 x 48.3cm
© 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 (American, 1887-1986)
Untitled (Abstraction/Portrait of Paul Strand)
1917
Watercolour on paper

 

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

 

Georgia O’Keeffe (American, 1887-1986)
Blue I
1916
Watercolour on paper
78.4 x 56.5cm
© 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 (American, 1887-1986)
Music – Pink and Blue No 1
1918
Oil on canvas
88.9 x 73.7cm
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 (American, 1887-1986)
Blue and Green Music
1921
Oil on canvas
58.4 x 48.3cm
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 (American, 1887-1986)
From the Lake No. 1
1924
Oil on canvas
91.4 x 76.2cm
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 (American, 1887-1986)
Autumn Trees – The Maple
1924
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 (American, 1887-1986)
New York Street with Moon
1925
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 (American, 1887-1986)
Radiator Building – Night, New York
1927
Oil on canvas
121.9 x 76.2cm
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 (American, 1887-1986)
East River from the 30th Story of the Shelton Hotel
1928
Oil on canvas
76.2 x 122.2cm
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 (American, 1887-1986)
Lake George
1922
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 (American, 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 (American, 1887-1986)
Red Canna
1924
Oil on canvas
© 2016 Georgia O’Keeffe Museum/DACS, London

 

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

 

Georgia O’Keeffe (American, 1887-1986)
Black Iris
1926
Oil on canvas
91.4 x 75.9cm
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 (American, 1887-1986)
Dark Iris No. 1
1927
Oil on canvas
© 2016 Georgia O’Keeffe Museum/DACS, London

 

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

 

Georgia O’Keeffe (American, 1887-1986)
Abstraction White Rose
1927
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 (American, 1887-1986)
Abstraction Blue
1927
Oil on canvas
102.1 x 76cm
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 (American, 1887-1986)
Shell No. 2
1928
Oil on board
23.5 x 18.4cm
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 (American, 1887-1986)
Two Calla Lilies on Pink
1928
Oil on canvas
101.6 x 76.2cm
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 (American, 1887-1986)
Grey, Blue & Black – Pink Circle
1929
Oil on canvas
91.4 x 122cm
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 (American, 1887-1986)
White Iris
1930
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 (American, 1887-1986)
Oriental Poppies
1927
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 (American, 1887-1986)
Jimson Weed/White Flower No. 1
1932
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

 

 

Introduction

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 (American, 1887-1986)
Black Cross with Stars and Blue
1929
Oil on canvas
101.6 x 76.2cm
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 (American, 1887-1986)
Black Mesa Landscape, New Mexico / Out Back of Marie’s II
1930
Oil on canvas mounted on board
24 1/4 x 36 1/4 in. (61.6 x 92.1cm)
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 (American, 1887-1986)
Rust Red Hills
1930
Oil on canvas
40.6 x 76.2cm
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 (American, 1887-1986)
Horse’s Skull with Pink Rose
1931
Oil on canvas
101.6 x 76.2cm
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 (American, 1887-1986)
Deer’s Skull with Pedernal
1936
Oil on canvas
91.44 x 76.52cm
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 (American, 1887-1986)
From the Faraway, Nearby
1937
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 (American, 1887-1986)
Pedernal with Red Hills (Red Hills with the Pedernal)
1936
Oil on canvas
50.8 x 76.2cm
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 (American, 1887-1986)
Red Hills and White Flower
1937
Pastel on paper covered board
19 3/8 x 25 5/8 in.
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 (American, 1887-1986)
Red and Yellow Cliffs
1940
Oil on canvas
61 x 91.4cm
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 (American, 1887-1986)
My Backyard
1937
Oil on canvas
© 2016 Georgia O’Keeffe Museum/ DACS, London

 

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

 

Georgia O’Keeffe (American, 1887-1986)
My Front Yard, Summer
1941
Oil on canvas
50.8 x 76.2cm
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 (American, 1887-1986)
Red Hills and Bones
1941
Oil on canvas
75.6 x 101.6cm
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 (American, 1887-1986)
Black Place III
1944
Oil on canvas
36 x 40 in.
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 (American, 1887-1986)
Black Place Green
1949
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 (American, 1887-1986)
In the Patio No IV
1948
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 (American, 1887-1986)
Pelvis Series, Red with Yellow
1945
Oil on canvas
91.8 x 122.2cm
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 (American, 1887-1986)
Pelvis Series
1947
Oil on canvas
101.6 x 121.9cm
© 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 (American, b. 1922)
Georgia O’Keeffe, Taos Pueblo, New Mexico 1960
1960
Gelatin silver print on paper
16.7 x 23.5cm
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 (American, 1905-2000)
Georgia O’Keeffe walking at the White Place, New Mexico, 1957
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 (American, 1887-1986)
From the River – Pale
1959
Oil on canvas
Photograph: 2016 Georgia O’Keeffe Museum/ DACS, London

 

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

 

Georgia O’Keeffe (American, 1887-1986)
Winter Road I
1963
Oil on canvas
© Georgia O’Keeffe Museum/DACS 2016

 

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

 

Georgia O’Keeffe (American, 1887-1986)
Sky Above Clouds IV
1965
Oil on canvas
243.8 x 731.5cm
© Georgia O’Keeffe Museum/DACS 2016, courtesy Art Institute of Chicago

 

 

Tate Modern
Bankside
London SE1 9TG
United Kingdom

Opening hours:
Daily 10.00 – 18.00

Tate Modern website

LIKE ART BLART ON FACEBOOK

Back to top




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, an art and cultural memory archive, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Doctor 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.

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email. If you would like to unsubscribe from the email list please email me at bunyanth@netspace.net.au and I will remove you asap. Thank you.

Join 2,963 other subscribers

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

Follow Art_Blart on Twitter
Art Blart on Pinterest

Blog Stats

  • 13,170,631 hits
June 2023
M T W T F S S
 1234
567891011
12131415161718
19202122232425
2627282930  

Archives

Categories

If you would like to unsubscribe from the email list please email me at bunyanth@netspace.net.au and I will remove you asap. Thank you.

Join 2,963 other subscribers