Georgia O'Keeffe - Contemporary Art Part I New York Wednesday, May 11, 2011 | Phillips

Create your first list.

Select an existing list or create a new list to share and manage lots you follow.

  • Provenance

    Harold Diamond, New York, NY (1977); Elaine Horwitch Gallery, Scottsdale (1978); Private collection, Palm Springs, California (1988); Doris Bry, New York; Gerald Peters Gallery, Sante Fe; Private Collection

  • Exhibited

    Scottsdale, Elaine Horwitch Gallery; Denver Art Museum; Washington, D.C., National Collection of Fine Arts; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and Seattle Art Museum, The First Western States Biennial Exhibition, March 7, 1979 – July 13, 1980; Dallas, Gerald Peters Gallery, Georgia O’Keeffe: Selected Paintings and Works on Paper, June 14 – July 14, 1986

  • Literature

    B. Buhler Lynes, Georgia O’Keeffe Catalogue Raisonné, Volume One, New Haven and London, 1999, p. 556, no. 890 (illustrated in color); H. Drohojowska-Philp, Full Bloom: The Art and Life of Georgia O’Keeffe, New York, 2004, p. 364 (discussed)

  • Catalogue Essay

    In 1970, when she was 83 years old, a retrospective exhibition of her work was held at the Whitney Museum of American Art. The New York critics and collectors and a new generation of students, artists and aficionados made an astonishing discovery. The artist who had been joyously painting as she pleased had been a step ahead of everyone, all the time.

    (Edith Evans Asbury, “Georgia O’Keeffe; Shaper of Modern Art in U.S.,” The New York Times, March 7, 1986)

    Georgia O’Keeffe’s legendary oeuvre spans from the early days of American modernism to the Abstract Expressionist movement that dominated the fifties and sixties. O’Keefe’s profound abstract interpretations of nature made enormous contributions to American Modernism, and established her reputation as one of the most successful and beloved American artists of the twentieth century.

    Born to a family of farmers in Wisconsin, the expansive landscape and rhythms of country life would have lasting impressions on O’Keeffe’s work. The artist claimed she established her visual memory before she could walk, recalling details of a patchwork quilt and “the brightness of light…light all around” (Written by the artist as she was approaching her 90s). By the time she turned twelve years old, O’Keeffe made the decision to become an artist.

    O’Keeffe studied at the Art Students League in New York under the tutelage of William Merrit Chase, who ignited the artist’s passion for color. O’Keeffe’s early experiments demonstrate what would become a life-long relationship with the materiality of color, form and volume. During her studies, O’Keeffe read Wassily Kandinsky’s Concerning the Spiritual in Art, a thesis favoring the inner spiritual world as the artist’s truest source of inspiration. Kandinsky’s theories on the organic approach to form and color made lasting impressions on O’Keefe’s work.

    O’Keeffe’s large-scale compositions are taken from carefully composed viewpoints influenced by modern photography, a resonance her husband Alfred Stieglitz identified in her work. Stieglitz worked tirelessly to promote American modernism as a photographer, gallery owner and art dealer. O’Keeffe and Stieglitz were valued members of an avant-garde circle of artists, writers and critics steering the dialogue on European and American modernism in New York. O’Keeffe and Stieglitz exchanged ideas and sources of inspiration in their shared passions for the abstract qualities in nature, which fueled O’Keeffe’s work with new energy and sensitivity.

    “A flower is relatively small. Everyone has many associations with a flower, the idea of flowers. You put out your hand to touch the flower, lean forward to smell it, maybe touch it with your lips almost without thinking, or give it to someone to please them. Still, in a way, nobody sees a flower, really, it is so small, we haven’t time, and to see takes time like to have a friend takes time. If I could paint the flower exactly as I see it no one would see what I see because I would paint it small like the flower is small. 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.” (N. Callaway, Georgia O’Keeffe: One Hundred Flowers, New York, 1989).

    Using the natural world as the base for her abstraction, O’Keeffe focuses on how organic shapes define themselves. O’Keeffe’s flower canvases are seminal examples of her organic abstraction, and widely considered her best works. A symphony of saturated colors and autonomous form, O’Keeffe’s flowers are intimate portraits that translate her experience of the flower into her own pictorial language. O’Keeffe’s abstract terms are deeply rooted in her objective to uncover the object’s truth; the artist herself said, “I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way — things I had no words for.”

    The present lot, Yellow Jonquils IV, was painted in the spring of 1936 in the Arno penthouse in New York where O’Keeffe and Stieglitz lived together. The incandescent yellow trumpets of the narcissus flowers fill O’Keeffe’s canvas in a bold chorus, emblazoning the surface with a saturated color palate and abstract angles. Yellow Jonquils IV is a sensational example of O’Keeffe’s ability to translate her experience of the flower into abstract terms. In O’Keeffe’s own words, “I know I can not paint a flower. I can not paint the sun on the desert on a bright summer morning but maybe in terms of paint color I can convey to you my experience of the flower or the experience that makes the flower of significance to me at that particular time” (Written by the artist to William M. Milliken, Director of the Cleveland Art Museum, November 1, 1930.)

    The 1930s marked a period of personal development for the artist; O’Keeffe had recently discovered New Mexico, an open landscape which became a visual source of stimulation that enlivened her compositions. Within O’Keeffe’s oeuvre, Yellow Jonquils IV is a prime example of the artist’s finest work, boasting exquisite color and floral forms that are both delicate and penetrating. In the artist’s own words, “Whether the flower or the color is the focus I do not know. I do know the flower is painted large to convey my experience with the flower – and what is my experience if it is not the color?” (Written by the artist to William M. Milliken, Director of the Cleveland Art Museum, November 1, 1930.)

    Georgia O’Keeffe made extensive contributions to modern art. Her lifestyle and work presaged an interest in the expansive desert landscape of the American southwest, and inspired a generation of artists to look at organic forms as the base for their abstraction. O’Keeffe’s influences continue to surface and inspire the greatest Contemporary artists of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.


Yellow Jonquils IV

Oil on canvas.
40 x 36 in. (101.6 x 91.4 cm.)

$2,000,000 - 3,000,000 

Sold for $2,210,500

Contemporary Art Part I

12 May 2011
New York