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    "Many things are so beautiful that they don’t seem real. My idea of the world—nature—things that grow...has not been beautiful enough."
    —Georgia O’Keeffe to Alfred Stieglitz,
    February – March 1939

     

     

    Harold Stein, Georgia O’Keeffe on Leho‘ula Beach, near ‘Aleamai, Hāna, Maui, 1939. Image: © Estate of Harold Stein

    Harold Stein, Georgia O’Keeffe on Leho‘ula Beach, near ‘Aleamai, Hāna, Maui, 1939. Image: © Estate of Harold Stein

     

     

    On January 30, 1939, Georgia O’Keeffe embarked on a nine-week sojourn to Hawaii, a transformative experience that inspired some of the most visually alluring paintings of her career. Marking a pivotal moment in the legendary artist’s singular practice, Crab’s Claw Ginger Hawaii is among the most iconic works of the 22 paintings she created based on her time in the Aloha State. Of these, 14 reside in museum collections, including the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Honolulu Museum of Art, Brooklyn Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, and the Smithsonian American Art Museum. A striking painting by a pioneering figure of American Modernism making its auction debut, Crab’s Claw Ginger Hawaii captures O’Keeffe’s adventurous spirit and passion for the natural world, expressed through her distinctive visual language. 

     

  • O’Keeffe’s Visions of Hawaii in Museum Collections

  • "I have such a fantastic flower that some one gave me yesterday—am taking it along—it is sort of dry and flat but lovely red and green and yellow—a variety of ginger..."
    —Georgia O’Keeffe to Alfred Stieglitz, from Wailuku, Maui, March 28, 1939

     

     

    O’Keeffe’s trip to Hawaii began as a commission by New York advertising firm N. W. Ayer & Son to produce images for the Hawaiian Pineapple Company, now Dole. Though typically hesitant to take on such commissions, O’Keeffe accepted, drawn to the seductive appeal of the Islands and her passion for travel. Crab’s Claw Ginger Hawaii was one of the two works ultimately selected for the print campaign—along with Pineapple Bud, Private Collection—which appeared in Vogue and the Saturday Evening Post, among other outlets. Further testifying to its emblematic stature, the present work most recently featured as the key highlight of the formative New York Botanical Garden exhibition, Georgia O’Keeffe: Visions of Hawaii, from 2018 to 2019, published as the catalogue cover as well as in the related article by the New York Times.

     

     

     

    [left] The present work featured in McCall’s Magazine, 1940 [right] René Magritte, Exciting Perfumes by Mem, 1946. Artwork: © 2021 C. Herscovici / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

    [left] The present work featured in McCall’s Magazine, 1940. Artwork: © Georgia O'Keeffe Museum / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York [right] René Magritte, Exciting Perfumes by Mem, 1946. Artwork: © 2021 C. Herscovici / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

     

     

    For O’Keeffe, what started as a critical assignment in the Hawaiian Islands would become a profound opportunity to channel her love for nature beyond borders in a radically new environment. From the streams trickling down the ‘Īao Valley in the west of Maui, to sea arches near Hāna in the east; from the richly abundant flora to traditional Hawaiian fishhooks (makau), O’Keeffe found exuberant inspiration in the tropical Hawaiian landscape. In her letters to Stieglitz, she frequently described her captivation with the floral life of the Islands, marveling at its beauty. As she once stated, “Wish you could see it—so many of the flowers just simply seem unbelievable...”i

     

     

    Harold Stein, Georgia O'Keeffe in Hawai‘i, 1939. Image: © Estate of Harold Stein

    Harold Stein, Georgia O'Keeffe in Hawai‘i, 1939. Image: © Estate of Harold Stein

     

     

    In the present work, O’Keeffe depicts a lushly colored heliconia, a relative of ginger, set against the expansive Hawaiian sky and distant marine horizon. Unlike her earlier flower compositions, the sky plays a significant role here. As Jennifer Saville observed of O’Keeffe’s Hawaiian pictures, “The configuration of flower, sky, horizon, and sea differ in each, but the component parts remain the same; seemingly symbolic of Hawaii, they encapsulate the spirit of the islands with their exotic vegetation and endless space.”ii

     

     

     

    [left] René Magritte, The Third Dimension (La troisième dimension), 1942. Sammlung Moderne Kunst, Pinakothek der Moderne, Bayerische Staatsgemaeldesammlungen, Munich, Image: bpk Bildagentur / Pinakothek der Moderne / Art Resource, NY, Artwork: © 2021 C. Herscovici / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York [right] Constantin Brâncuși, Bird in Space, 1923. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Image: © The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Image source: Art Resource, NY, Artwork: © 2021 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

    [left] René Magritte, The Third Dimension (La troisième dimension), 1942. Sammlung Moderne Kunst, Pinakothek der Moderne, Bayerische Staatsgemaeldesammlungen, Munich, Image: bpk Bildagentur / Pinakothek der Moderne / Art Resource, NY, Artwork: © 2021 C. Herscovici / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York [right] Constantin Brâncuși, Bird in Space, 1923. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Image: © The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Image source: Art Resource, NY, Artwork: © 2021 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

     

     

    Crab’s Claw Ginger Hawaii is especially distinguished by its expressive manifestation of O’Keeffe’s Surrealist sensibility, rarely seen this distinctly in her oeuvre. The work’s surreal character at once prefigures and conjures René Magritte’s La troisième dimension of 1942, as well as his own commissioned advertisement, Exciting Perfumes by Mem, 1946. Stripping away any enveloping foliage, she bestows the heliconia with a monumental presence against the sea and sky. A single elongated leaf anchored at the left counterbalances the flower’s diagonal thrust, infusing the subject with life and a sense of movement. Atypical of her floral works, which generally maintain a more static presence, this remarkably dynamic composition brings to mind the forceful energy of Brâncuși’s Bird in Space.

     

     

     

    [left] Emily Mae Smith, Alien Shores, 2018. Private Collection, Artwork: Courtesy of the artist and Petzel, New York [right] Loie Hollowell, Linked Lingam in Red and Blue, 2015. Private Collection

    [left] Emily Mae Smith, Alien Shores, 2018. Private Collection, Artwork: Courtesy of the artist and Petzel, New York [right] Loie Hollowell, Linked Lingam in Red and Blue, 2015. Private Collection, Artwork: © Loie Hollowell

     

     

    Further lending to the work’s dreamlike quality, O’Keeffe abstracts the surface of the flower’s bracts, rendered smooth with the striking employment of bold, luminous color. The radicality of this composition presages much of the contemporary art impulses of today, as seen in the works of a new generation of cutting-edge female artists, including Emily Mae Smith and Loie Hollowell. 

     

     

     

    [left] Georgia O’Keeffe, Pelvis with the Distance, 1943. Indianapolis Museum of Art, Artwork: © Georgia O'Keeffe Museum / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York [right] Georgia O’Keeffe, Untitled (Mt. Fuji), 1960. The Georgia O'Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe, Image: Georgia O'Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe / Art Resource, NY

    [left] Georgia O’Keeffe, Pelvis with the Distance, 1943. Indianapolis Museum of Art, Artwork: © Georgia O'Keeffe Museum / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York [right] Georgia O’Keeffe, Untitled (Mt. Fuji), 1960. The Georgia O'Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe, Image: Georgia O'Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe / Art Resource, NY, Artwork: © Georgia O'Keeffe Museum / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

     

     

    Throughout her prolific career, O’Keeffe drew from her memory and imagination to conceive paintings that capture “the wideness and wonder of the world as I live in it.”iii Beginning in New York in the 1920s; to New Mexico in 1929 through her lifetime; to the Hawaiian Islands in 1939; and later to Peru and Japan in 1959, O’Keeffe continuously mined the natural world to create some of the most iconic works of the 20th century that resonate through the present. The artist’s larger-than-life spirit, distinguished painterly vernacular, and lyrical vision of Hawaii manifest themselves most spectacularly in Crab’s Claw Ginger Hawaii. “I often think of that trip at Yosemite as one of the best things I have done – but Hawaii was another,” she wrote upon her departure from the Islands.iv  “Out there was sort of a dream land.”v

     

     

    Georgia O’Keeffe, Sky Above Clouds IV, 1965. Art Institute of Chicago, Image: The Art Institute of Chicago / Art Resource, NY

    Georgia O’Keeffe, Sky Above Clouds IV, 1965. Art Institute of Chicago, Image: The Art Institute of Chicago / Art Resource, NY, Artwork: © Georgia O'Keeffe Museum / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

     

     

    In O’Keeffe’s Words

     

     

     

    Georgia O’Keeffe’s artist statement upon the opening of Georgia O’Keeffe: Exhibition of Oils and Pastels, An American Place, New York, February 3 - March 17, 1940

    Georgia O’Keeffe’s artist statement upon the opening of Georgia O’Keeffe: Exhibition of Oils and Pastels, An American Place, New York, February 3 - March 17, 1940

     

     

     

    Property from the Collection of Thurston and Sharon Twigg-Smith, Honolulu

     

    The important history of Crab’s Claw Ginger Hawaii is paired perfectly in this case with the story of its owners, Sharon Twigg-Smith and her late husband, Thurston Twigg-Smith, members of a prominent, fifth-generation Hawaiian family known for their philanthropy and contributions to the arts across institutional and cultural bounds. Mr. Twigg-Smith, frequently called “Twigg,” was a larger than life figure whose legendary impact on the state of Hawaii was matched perhaps only by his genuine love for art and the community. After a decorated military career, including the storming of Normandy during World War II, he returned to his home state and propelled the Honolulu Advertiser into Hawaii's leading newspaper. Coalescing his endeavors in the arts with his business acumen, Twigg notably transformed The Contemporary Museum, Honolulu from a corporate gallery into a public museum, now known as the Honolulu Museum of Art Spalding House. Among the many other institutions they supported are the Hawaii Theatre Center, Historic Hawaii Foundation, Punahou School, and Yale University Art Gallery, where they gifted masterpieces such as Richard Diebenkorn’s Ocean Park #24 and Wayne Thiebaud’s Drink Syrups as well as other major works of modern and contemporary art.

     

     

     


    i Georgia O’Keeffe to Alfred Stieglitz, Honolulu, February 16-18, 1939.
    ii Jennifer Saville, Georgia O’Keeffe: Paintings of Hawai’i, exh. cat., Honolulu Academy of Arts, 1990, p. 31.
    iii Georgia O’Keeffe, quoted in Elizabeth H. Turner, Georgia O'Keeffe: The Poetry of Things, Washington, D.C., 1999, p. vi.
    iv Georgia O’Keeffe to Ansel Adams, Honolulu, April 14, 1939.
    v Georgia O’Keeffe to Alfred Stieglitz, en route from Los Angeles to San Francisco, April 21, 1939.

    • Provenance

      The Dole Pineapple Company, New York (commissioned from the artist in 1939)
      (with Harold Diamond, New York, 1976)
      Mr. and Mrs. N. Rosenwald, New York, by 1976
      (with Donald Morris Gallery, Birmingham, 1976)
      Private Collection, Toledo, 1976
      (with Gerald Peters Gallery, Santa Fe, 1987)
      Thurston Twigg-Smith, Sun Valley and Honolulu (acquired from the above, 1987)
      Sharon Twigg-Smith (by descent from the above, 2016)
      Gift from the above to the present owner

    • Exhibited

      New York, An American Place, Georgia O’Keeffe: Exhibition of Oils and Pastels, February 3 – March 17, 1940, no. 6 (titled as Halakonia—Crabs Claw Ginger)
      New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, Business Buys American Art, March 17 – April 24, 1960, no. 48, p. 32 (illustrated; titled as Heliconia—Crabs Claw Ginger)
      Phoenix Art Museum; Tokyo, The Seibu Museum of Art; Otsu, Seibu Hall; Aspen Art Museum, Georgia O’Keeffe: Selected Paintings, April 15, 1988 – February 12, 1989, no. 27, pp. 66, 104 (illustrated, p. 67; titled as Halakonia—Crabs Claw Ginger)
      Honolulu Academy of Arts, Georgia O’Keeffe: Paintings of Hawai'i, March 22 – May 6, 1990, no. 8, pp. 17, 31-32, 70 (illustrated, p. 34; titled as Heliconia—Crabs Claw Ginger; Dole Pineapple Advertisement illustrated, fig. 6, p. 18)
      The New York Botanical Garden; Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, Georgia O’Keeffe: Visions of Hawai’i, May 19, 2018 – February 24, 2019, no. 19, pp. 19, 20, 128, 130 (illustrated, p. 131 and on the frontispiece; titled as Heliconia, Crabs Claw Ginger; Dole Pineapple Juice advertisement illustrated, fig. 8, p. 20)

    • Literature

      "Advertising Art Lures Brush of Miss O'Keeffe," New York Herald Tribune, January 31, 1940, p. 10
      "Pineapple for Papaya," Time, February 12, 1940, p. 9
      "Georgia O'Keeffe Finally Painted That Pineapple," Honolulu Star-Bulletin, February 22, 1940, p. 9
      Elizabeth McCausland, "Exhibitions in New York," Parnassus, no. 3, March 1940, p. 42
      "Hospitable Hawaii cannot send you its abundance of flowers...," The Saturday Evening Post, April 13, 1940, p. 115 (Dole Pineapple Juice advertisement illustrated)
      McCall’s, vol. LXVII, no. 8, May 1940, p. 82 (Dole Pineapple Juice advertisement illustrated)
      "Hospitable Hawaii cannot send you its abundance of flowers...," Vogue, February 1, 1941, p. 58 (Dole Pineapple Juice advertisement illustrated)
      Art Directors Club of New York, Twentieth Annual of Advertising Art, New York, 1941, p. 59 (illustrated; Dole Pineapple Juice advertisement illustrated, p. 58)
      F.A. Mercer, "The Twentieth Annual of Advertising Art," Art and Industry, no. 192, June 1942, p. 164 (illustrated)
      Russell Lynes, "Suitable for Framing," Harper's Magazine, no. 1149, February 1946, p. 163
      John D. Morse, "Americans Abroad," Magazine of Art, no. 1, January 1947, p. 25 (illustrated; titled as Bird of Paradise)
      Russell Lynes, The Tastemakers, New York, 1955, p. 294 (titled as Hawaiian mock-bird-of-paradise flower)
      "Island Firms Honored," Honolulu Star-Bulletin, April 17, 1960, p. 8 (illustrated; titled as Heliconia)
      Ronn Ronck, "How Georgia O'Keeffe conquered pineapples," The Honolulu Advertiser, October 22, 1981, pp. D1, D3
      Sue Davidson Lowe, Stieglitz: A Memoir/Biography, New York, 1983, p. 356
      Karl K. Ichida, "Beauty and the Businessman: Corporate Support for the Visual Arts in Hawaii," Eastwest Fine Arts Supplement and Gallery Guide, Winter 1984, p. 36
      F. Bradley Lynch, "Ayer gets a taste of O'Keeffe," Advertising Age, no. 25, April 7, 1986, p. 60 (Dole Pineapple Advertisement illustrated)
      Laurie Lisle, Portrait of an Artist: A Biography of Georgia O'Keeffe, Albuquerque, 1986, pp. 243-244
      Roxana Robinson, Georgia O'Keeffe: A Life, New York, 1989, p. 427
      Barbara Buhler Lynes, Georgia O’Keeffe: Catalogue Raisonné, vol. II, New Haven, 1999, no. 963, p. 608 (illustrated)
      William L. Hamilton, “O’Keeffe’s Paradise, Lost and Found,” The New York Times, May 25, 2018, section C, p. 13 (illustrated)

Property from the Collection of Thurston and Sharon Twigg-Smith, Honolulu

9

Crab’s Claw Ginger Hawaii

signed, titled and dated “Crabs Claw Ginger / Hawaii 1939 / Georgia O’Keeffe” on the reverse
oil on canvas
19 x 16 in. (48.3 x 40.6 cm)
Painted in 1939.

Full Cataloguing

Estimate
$4,000,000 - 6,000,000 

Sold for $7,748,000

Contact Specialist

Amanda Lo Iacono
New York Head of Department & Head of Auctions
+1 212 940 1278
[email protected]

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 17 November 2021