Audio: Georgia O'Keeffe, Sun Water Maine
Georgia O'Keeffe (1887-1986)
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PROPERTY FROM THE SLICK FAMILY COLLECTION Tom Slick, with his many accomplishments, interests and inquisitive mind, was a true renaissance man, who was a deeply dedicated citizen of San Antonio, Texas. He was a successful businessman, titan of the oil industry, rancher, entrepreneur, devoted father, alumnus of Phillips Exeter Academy and Yale University, Trinity University trustee, patron of the architect O'Neil Ford, avid traveler, inventor, one of the founders of the first all freight American airline, author of several books on international peace, and committed philanthropist. An employee, Travis Richardson, said of Slick, "He was an amazing man. I would be in his office, and anybody in the world could call him and he would talk to them. His whole thrust was to help his fellow man, no matter what the venture." (as quoted in C.N. Cooke, Tom Slick: Mystery Hunter, Bracey, Virginia, 2005, p. 70) He also had a strong wanderlust, traveling all over the world in search of mystery and adventure. In addition to visits to India, South America and Africa, he went on several hunts in Nepal for the Yeti and in California for Big Foot. Tom Slick was responsible for a variety of innovations in architecture, agriculture and oil exploration, which included the invention of a new breed of cattle, the Brangus, and the "Lift-Slab" method of architecture, among others. He harbored a strong belief in the power of science to improve the quality of life, writing, "Science gives us a tool of unparalleled effectiveness by which we can improve the physical side of our lives; and since science recognizes no boundaries, the lives of people all over the world." (as quoted in Tom Slick: Mystery Hunter, p. 196). This desire to help human kind as well as his lifelong love and support for scientific research, led Slick to found the first of five scientific research institutes, The Foundation of Applied Research, now known as the Texas Biomedical Research Institute, at the age of 25. In 1947, he founded the Southwest Research Institute and the Institute of Inventive Research and, in 1958, inspired by a meeting with the Dalai Lama, he began the Mind Science Foundation. These institutions have been responsible for many innovations during the past 60 years and continue to further scientific advancement to this day. Tom Slick also had a passion for modern art and a keen collecting eye. From the mid-1950s until his premature death in 1962, he amassed an important collection of American and European Modern art and formed close relationships with leading dealers including Edith Halpert of The Downtown Gallery in New York and Peter and Charles Gimpel of Gimpel Fils Ltd. in London. He was a generous lender to exhibitions during his lifetime and in 1973 his estate donated a large portion of his collection, including masterworks by Pablo Picasso, Barbara Hepworth, Georgia O'Keeffe, Isamu Noguchi and Larry Rivers, among others, to the McNay Art Museum in San Antonio, which honored his collecting legacy with a 2009 exhibition, Tom Slick: International Art Collector. The remainder of his collection was kept by his family and Christie's is honored to offer four works from the Slick Family Collection during the New York fall sale season: Barbara Hepworth's Curved Forms (Pavan), Isamu Noguchi's Sentry and two superb pastels by Georgia O'Keeffe, Sun Water Maine (lot 13) and The Black Place III (lot 21).
Georgia O'Keeffe (1887-1986)

Sun Water Maine

Georgia O'Keeffe (1887-1986)
Sun Water Maine
signed with initials 'OK' in artist's star device (on the backing board)
pastel on paper laid down on board
19 x 25¼ in. (48.3 x 64.1 cm.)
Executed in 1922.
[With]The Downtown Gallery, New York.
Tom Slick, Jr., San Antonio, Texas, acquired from the above, 1959.
By descent to the present owner, 1963.
P. Moran, E. Zafran, Drawings from Georgia Collections: Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, exhibition catalogue, Atlanta, Georgia, n.p., 1981.
T.S. Holman, Georgia O'Keeffe: Works From Southern Collections, exhibition catalogue, 1985, n.p.
B.B. Lynes, Georgia O'Keeffe: Catalogue Raisonné, vols. I & II, New Haven, Connecticut, 1999, pp. 209, 1112, no. 397, fig. 13, illustrated.
R.E. Fine, E. Glassman, J.C. Walsh, O'Keeffe on Paper, exhibition catalogue, Washington, D.C., 2000, p. 116, no. 35, illustrated.
W.J. Chiego, A. McKeever, Tom Slick: International Art Collector, exhibition catalogue, San Antonio, Texas, 2009, pp. 74-75, illustrated.
New York, The Anderson Galleries, Alfred Stieglitz Presents One Hundred Pictures: Oils, Water-colors, Pastels, Drawings, by Georgia O'Keeffe, American, January 29-February 10, 1923, no. 10.
New York, The Downtown Gallery, O'Keeffe Paintings in Pastel: 1914 to 1952, February 19-March 8, 1952, no. 6.
San Antonio, Texas, Marion Koogler McNay Art Institute, Georgia O'Keeffe, October 24-November 30, 1975.
Abilene, Texas, First State Bank, Georgia O'Keeffe, September 17-October 2, 1977.
Atlanta, Georgia, High Museum of Art, Drawings from Georgia Collections: Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, May 14-June 28, 1981.
Albany, Georgia, Albany Museum of Art, Georgia O'Keeffe: Works from Southern Collections, September 8-October 20, 1985.
Washington, D.C., National Gallery of Art, and elsewhere, O'Keeffe on Paper, April 9-July 9, 2000, no. 35.
San Antonio, Texas, McNay Art Museum, Tom Slick: International Art Collector, June 10-September 13, 2009.
Sale room notice
Please note the additional Literature reference:
T.S. Holman, Georgia O'Keeffe: Works From Southern Collections, exhibition catalogue, 1985, n.p.

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Lot Essay

Sun Water Maine is a superb example of Georgia O'Keeffe's mastery of the pastel medium and an important early work by the artist. O'Keeffe first traveled to Maine in the summer of 1920, staying at an inn at York Beach owned by friends of her husband, Alfred Stieglitz's family. She was instantly drawn to the place, returning several times over the course of a decade. "For Georgia...the trip to Maine was a revelation. Standing at the edge of the Atlantic Ocean, she felt again the bliss of a wide flat horizon, the sense of boundlessness and solitude that she had valued in Texas." (R. Robinson, Georgia O'Keeffe: A Life, New York, 1989, p. 230) Sun Water Maine is a powerful composition that manifests O'Keeffe's profound connection to the sea that she encountered at York Beach and the freedom that she felt in Maine.

In Sun Water Maine O'Keeffe simplifies the forms of sea and sun, reducing both to a rhythmic pattern of lines and softly modulated color. She uses the velvety medium of pastel to create a rich surface that conveys the depth and movement of the water. "Pastel afforded O'Keeffe a medium for her most unabashedly beautiful works of art. Exploiting pastel's broad range in hue and value, she was able to combine the graceful tonal imagery she had developed in charcoal with the intense abstract color she had explored in watercolor. Unexpectedly, she also found that pastel could project a captivating surface and texture. In contrast to her brief campaigns of focused work in charcoal and watercolor, O'Keeffe, beginning in 1915, used pastel steadily throughout her career." (J.C. Walsh, "The Language of O'Keeffe's Materials: Charcoal, Watercolor, Pastel" in R.E. Fine, B.B. Lynes, et al., O'Keeffe on Paper, Washington, D.C., 2000, p. 68) In the present work, O'Keeffe adeptly manipulates the medium, varying the application and saturation of the pigments and hues and juxtaposing this rich surface with bare paper, heightening the effect of each and creating a complex and visually striking surface.

As with many of her great works, at first glance, Sun Water Maine appears to be an objective rendering of the scene, however, upon further study, the presentation is deceivingly subjective, as the image has been subtly manipulated to reveal the mysterious perfection of nature. Sun Water Maine is not merely a depiction of the sea, but rather, manifests "the yearning [O'Keeffe] felt for the qualities inherent in both the ocean and the plains--the long, low, unbroken line of the horizon, and the vast, liberating presence of the sky." (Georgia O'Keeffe: A Life, p. 230) O'Keeffe shared this profound connection to nature with Arthur Dove, whose work she admired since she first saw Based on Leaf Forms and Spaces (1911/12, location unknown) illustrated in Arthur Jerome Eddy's seminal 1914 book, Cubists and Post-Impressionism. For her, the work "stood out for its abstract organic shapes that coalesced into a seductive, undulating, rhythmic pattern." (as quoted in D.B. Balken, Dove/O'Keeffe: Circles of Influence, Williamstown, Massachusetts, 2009, p. 21) O'Keeffe was introduced to Dove by Stieglitz who showed both artists in his gallery, "291." Dove's commitment to the natural world and his spiritual connection to his surroundings were as strong as hers and they shared a mutual admiration for one another's work and a lifelong artistic dialogue. O'Keeffe often commented on Dove's paintings and hung them in her home, while Dove said about her, "This girl is doing naturally what many of us fellows are trying to do, and failing." (as quoted in Georgia O'Keeffe, p. 13) Indeed, Dove incorporates the "sun" imagery of the present watercolor in later works such as Silver Sun of 1929 (Art Institute of Chicago). O'Keeffe first employed this motif in her 1917 Evening Star series and her 1916 watercolor Sunrise (private collection), returning to this iconography time and again throughout her career and influencing Modernists such as Oscar Bluemner and John Marin to include similar renderings in their work.

During the 1920s, when O'Keeffe executed the present work many Modernists such as Charles Sheeler, and John Marin turned to the industrial sector for guidance and inspiration in subject matter. In contrast, in works such as Sun Water Maine, O'Keeffe embraced the natural world in a vision that was simultaneously strikingly modern and a continuation of the American landscape tradition -- a manifestation of the spiritual power of the sublime. "O'Keeffe's work, a counter-response to technology, was soft, voluptuous and intimate. Full of rapturous colors and yielding surfaces, it furnishes a sense of astonishing discovery...Though the work is explicitly feminine, it is convincingly and triumphantly powerful, a combination that had not before existed." (Georgia O'Keeffe: A Life, p. 278)

Arthur Dove (1880-1946), Silver Sun, 1929, oil and metallic paint on canvas, 21 5/8 x 59 5/8 in., Art Institute of Chicago. /e The Estate of Arthur G. Dove, courtesy Terry Dintenfass, Inc.

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