GEORGIA O'KEEFFE (1887-1986)
GEORGIA O'KEEFFE (1887-1986)
GEORGIA O'KEEFFE (1887-1986)
GEORGIA O'KEEFFE (1887-1986)
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On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial int… Read more Visionary: The Paul G. Allen Collection
GEORGIA O'KEEFFE (1887-1986)

White Rose with Larkspur No. I

GEORGIA O'KEEFFE (1887-1986)
White Rose with Larkspur No. I
signed with initials ‘OK’ in the artist’s star device (on a piece of the original backing)
oil on canvas
36 x 30 in. (91.4 x 76.2 cm.)
Painted in 1927
Dr. Constance Friess, New York (gift from the artist, 1946).
Private collection (by descent from the above, 1975).
Menconi & Schoelkopf Fine Art, LLC, New York (acquired from the above, 2006).
Private collection, Las Vegas (2006).
Acquired from the above by the late owner, 2013.
Arts Magazine, 1957, vol. 32, p. 56 (titled White Rose with Larkspur).
N. Callaway, ed., Georgia O’Keeffe: One Hundred Flowers, New York, 1987, no. 42 (illustrated in color).
B.B. Lynes, Georgia O’Keeffe Catalogue Raisonné, New Haven, 1999, vol. 1, p. 345, no. 596 (illustrated in color).
M. McQuade, Stealing Glimpses: Of Poetry, Poets, and Things in Between, Louisville, 1999, p. 169.
H. Drohojowska-Philp, Full Bloom: The Art and Life of Georgia O’Keeffe, New York, 2004, p. 277.
J. Stuhlman and B.B. Lynes, Georgia O’Keeffe: Circling Around Abstraction, West Palm Beach, 2007, p. 31.
J.A. Barter, et al., American Modernism at The Art Institute of Chicago: From World War I to 1955, Chicago, 2009, p. 130 (illustrated, fig. 52).
New York, The Intimate Gallery, O’Keeffe Exhibition, January-February 1928, no. 16.
New York, The American Women’s Association Clubhouse, Exhibition of Paintings (1924-1937) by Georgia O’Keeffe, March-April 1937, no. 9.
New York, The Downtown Gallery, Art Our Children Live With: A Loan Exhibition of American Art, December 1957, no. 28.
Amherst, Mead Art Museum, circa 1996-2006 (on extended loan).
Special notice
On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial interest in the outcome of the sale of certain lots consigned for sale. This will usually be where it has guaranteed to the Seller that whatever the outcome of the auction, the Seller will receive a minimum sale price for the work. This is known as a minimum price guarantee. This is such a lot.

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Max Carter Vice Chairman, 20th and 21st Century Art, Americas

Lot Essay

Georgia O’Keeffe’s most iconic subject is the flower—magnified to confront the viewer with femininity in its boldest, and often most provocative, form. O’Keeffe began painting her flower pictures in 1918, and they were exhibited for the first time by her dealer and future husband Alfred Stieglitz in 1923. They immediately caused a sensation. By 1927, the year she painted White Rose with Larkspur No. I, O’Keeffe was the most famous female artist in America. The present work epitomizes her transformation of one of nature’s most delicate objects into a strong artistic statement, at once both intimate and monumental.
In 1927, O’Keeffe created five paintings of white roses, including the present work and White Rose with Larkspur No. II, in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. This composition was no doubt one of the artist’s favorites—she hung the related work in her bedroom in Abiquiu, New Mexico, before it was acquired by the museum in 1980. Both paintings delight in the details of the soft petals of the white flower against dark green leaves and blooms of blue larkspur. The present version has a particularly tactile quality, nearly compelling the viewer to reach out to feel the pillowy soft rose petals beautifully folding and furling to create soft shadows on the canvas. As Katherine Hoffman describes, “the white rose is reborn, representing a world of delicate sensitivity, as it is gently embraced by the blue and purple tones of the protective larkspur” (An Enduring Spirit: The Art of Georgia O’Keeffe, Metuchen, 1984, p. 103).
While delicate in feel, blossoms boldly proliferate across, and seemingly beyond, the entire canvas. The larkspur take over the entire field of vision, blurring at the edges to become simply gradations of pure color. The result is an all-over, almost patterned effect, which skirts the line between representation and abstraction. This aspect of White Rose with Larkspur No. I is further explored in O’Keeffe’s three other works of this 1927 series: Abstraction White Rose (Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe); White Rose, Abstraction with Pink (Private collection); and Ballet Skirt or Electric Light (White Rose—Abstraction) (Art Institute of Chicago). Each iteration plays with an increased degree of magnification and abstraction, until the natural form of the white rose is reduced to just patterns in shades of white and gray, swirling over the canvas and inviting the viewer into the flower’s depths.
O’Keeffe’s creative amplifications and distortions in her significant flower paintings, such as White Rose with Larkspur No. I, spurred charged interpretations by critics, which added to the notoriety surrounding O’Keeffe as a female artist. Lloyd Goodrich explains, “The forms were flower forms, but they also suggested the forms of the body, its subtle lines, its curves and folds and hidden depths; and the colors and textures recalled the fineness and bloom and delicate colors of flesh. This ambivalence of imagery, which is characteristic of O’Keeffe and part of the depth and power of this art, this sexual magnetism beneath the visible forms, added to the spell and mystery of her flower paintings, and made them among her most sensitive and living creations” (Georgia O’Keeffe, New York, 1970, p. 18). While O’Keeffe would consistently deny sexual interpretations of her work, the fact that they were painted by a woman in a male-dominated art world only added to the scandal, while also further cementing O’Keeffe’s celebrity.
The focus on the monochromatic form of a white rose in this 1927 series also particularly illustrates the connection between O’Keeffe’s paintings and the art of her friends and contemporaries working in the medium of photography. Part of O’Keeffe’s infamy derived from her modeling nude for Stieglitz’s portrait photographs, and in 1922 she explained that photography had “been part of my searching” (quoted in Georgia O’Keeffe, London, 2016, p. 12). Employing the photographic techniques of the detailed close-up and magnified image, as well as of the cropped edges of the picture plane, O’Keeffe’s close study of objects paralleled photographers such as Paul Strand, Edward Steichen and Edward Weston’s use of the camera to turn natural still-life forms into abstract images. Seen as both sensual and spiritual, their photographs and her paintings, like White Rose with Larkspur No. I, manifest the same duality.
Endlessly engaging with their ambiguity, O’Keeffe’s flower paintings continue to mesmerize viewers a century after their first debut, and to embolden female artists of today to further push the boundaries of their place within the canon. O’Keeffe explained of her inspiration behind this most iconic segment of her career, “In the twenties, huge buildings sometimes seemed to be going up overnight in New York. At that time I saw a painting by Fantin-Latour, a still life with flowers I found very beautiful, but I realized that were I to paint the same flowers so small, no one would look at them because I was unknown. So I thought I’ll make them big like the huge buildings going up. People will be startled; they’ll have to look at them—and they did” (Georgia O’Keeffe: The Poetry of Things, Washington, D.C., 1999, p. 48).

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