Georgia painted flowers with the appetite of an insatiable mistress. She said her intention was to make even busy New Yorkers see what she saw in flowers. Color and form were important to her.
The essence of flowers and the feelings they evoked mattered. The exact image was less important. Georgia wanted to recreate on canvas the way she witnessed the landscape.
“When you take a flower in your hand and really look at it, it’s your world for the moment. I want to give that world to someone else,” she said.
Skyscrapers and landscapes were also favorite subjects for the artist.
Georgia painted in a male dominated art world from the mid-1920s through the 1950s and what she brought to the field was a fresh and soft feminine touch.
Photographer and husband Alfred Stieglitz called it “the essence of womanhood.”
“I feel there is something unexplored about woman that only a woman can explore,” she said.
On a 1929 visit to New Mexico Georgia stayed with arts patron Mable Dodge Luhan whom she had known in New York. Luhan envisioned New Mexico as a “Paris of the West.” From 1929 to 1946 Georgia spent summers in Northern New Mexico. In 1940, she purchased an old adobe house at Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu, New Mexico with views of cliffs known as the “painted desert.”
As soon as she saw her potential home Georgia had to own it. The piercing sunlight, the blood-red skies, and the stark high-desert landscape surrounding the place only added to its charm.
“The country seems to call one in a way that one has to answer it,” she said. Georgia loved New Mexico immediately.
She settled permanently in the state three years after the death of Stieglitz in 1949. She continued to travel frequently with companion Juan Hamilton and maintained an apartment in New York.
Georgia wrote to a friend in 1950, “I cannot tell you how pleased I am to be back in this world again, what a feeling of relief it is to me.”
Scouring the New Mexico countryside by car, horseback and on foot, she used her paintbrush as a way to harness the essence of everything she witnessed.
She sketched New Mexico porches with their horse jawbones and cow skulls. She painted the white bones resting in the desert, the spectacular sunsets, The Ranchos de Taos Church and The Jemez Mountains.
Her passion for the landscape and her ability to express that passion on canvas makes her one of New Mexico’s most beloved artists. Georgia made people see ordinary things in an extraordinary way. Her work is the hallmark of American Modernism.
On March 5, 2020, Sotheby’s featured the Alfred Stieglitz, Georgia O’Keeffe and Juan Hamilton collection on the block.
Here are some current values for O’Keeffe items.
Gelatin Silver Print Portrait; O’Keeffe; by William Clift; mounted and signed in the margin; 1981; 9 ½ inches by 6 ¾ inches; $7,500.
Dress; long custom black-and-white pleated; standup collar; silk belt; possibly handsewn by Georgia; $25,000.
Pigments, 20 glass jars; labeled and used by O’Keeffe; pastels stored in a wooden crate; $56,250.
Pencil on Paper; Ghost Ranch Patio; circa 1940; 23 7/8 inches by 17 7/8 inches; $87,500.
Sculpture; Abstraction; white-lacquered bronze; modeled in 1946; cast in 1979-80; 10 inches high; $668,000.
Rosemary McKittrick is a storyteller. For 27 years she has brought the world of collecting to life in her column. Her LiveAuctionTalk.com website is a mother lode of information about art, antiques and collectibles. Rosemary received her education in the trenches working as a professional appraiser.