GEORGIA O'KEEFFE (1887-1986)
GEORGIA O'KEEFFE (1887-1986)
GEORGIA O'KEEFFE (1887-1986)
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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)

Autumn Leaf II

GEORGIA O'KEEFFE (1887-1986)
Autumn Leaf II
signed with initials ‘OK’ in the artist’s star device (on the original backing)
oil on canvas
32 x 21 in. (81.3 x 53.3 cm.)
Painted in 1927
The Downtown Gallery, New York.
Mrs. Albert D. Lasker, New York (acquired from the above, 1961); sale, Sotheby Parke-Bernet, New York, 25 April 1980, lot 246.
Kennedy Galleries, Inc. and Robert Miller Gallery, Inc., New York (acquired at the above sale).
Thea Westreich Art Advisory Services, Inc., New York.
Private collection (acquired from the above, 1984); sale, Sotheby’s, New York, 29 November 2012, lot 10.
Acquired at the above sale by the late owner.
Newsweek, 1965, vol. 66, p. 84 (titled Autumn Leaves).
International Art Market, 1980, vol. 20, p. 190, no. 246 (titled Autumn Leaves No. 2).
B.B. Lynes, Georgia O’Keeffe: Catalogue Raisonné, New Haven, 1999, vol. I, p. 353, no. 605 (illustrated in color).
H. Drohojowska-Philp, Full Bloom: The Art and Life of Georgia O’Keeffe, New York, 2004, p. 278.
New York, The Intimate Gallery, O’Keeffe Exhibition, January-February 1928, no. 29 (titled Autumn Leaf - B).
Tulsa, Philbrook Museum of Art, Georgia O’Keeffe Retrospective Exhibition, October-November 1952.
Dallas Museum of Fine Arts and Delray Beach, Mayo Hill Galleries, An Exhibition of Paintings by Georgia O’Keeffe, February-April 1953, no. 6 (titled Autumn Leaves II).
Amherst College, Mead Art Building, 13 Painters 40 Years, May 1956.
New York, The Gallery of Modern Art, The Twenties Revisited, June-September 1965.
Tulsa, Philbrook Museum of Art; Oakland Museum of Art; Baltimore Museum of Art and New York, National Academy of Design, Painters of the Humble Truth: American Still Life Painting, September 1981-July 1982, pp. 266 and 292-293, no. 99 (illustrated, p. 266, fig. 11.11; titled Autumn Leaves No. 2).
New York, Kennedy Galleries, Inc., The American Tradition: Paintings and Sculpture of the Twentieth Century, April-May 1983, p. 17.
Santa Fe, Georgia O’Keeffe Museum (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
Max Carter Vice Chairman, 20th and 21st Century Art, Americas

Lot Essay

Georgia O’Keeffe reinvented the still-life tradition with her daring paintings of the 1920s, which elevated small gems she found within nature to become monumental totems of life and beauty. Beyond the flowers that established her fame, O’Keeffe continuously sought inspiration from elsewhere in the natural world, from the vibrant autumnal leaves of Upstate New York to the bleached bones and skulls that would fascinate her in the American Southwest. In each case, as Marjorie P. Balge-Crozier writes, “she radically altered the scale and presentation of her subjects in ways that make us equally aware of the art and the artist as well as the thing represented—a truly modern contribution to a venerable Western tradition” (Georgia O’Keeffe: The Poetry of Things, Washington, D.C., 1999, p. 42). An iconic example of these efforts, her striking Autumn Leaf II of 1927 uniquely transforms the simple leaf into a powerful subject to be closely studied and admired.
In 1918, O’Keeffe began to regularly depart New York City to spend time at the family estate of her dealer and later husband Alfred Stieglitz in Lake George, New York. Creatively stimulated by the environment, she would spend most of every summer and early fall there over the next decade. The artist took long walks along paths throughout the property, seeking peace within the wooden landscape and gathering pieces of nature that captivated her. She particularly enjoyed witnessing the changing colors of the local foliage, writing, “I always look forward to the Autumn—to working at that time—and continue what I had been trying to put down of the Autumn for years” (quoted in Modern Nature: Georgia O’Keeffe and Lake George, Glen Falls, New York, 2013, p. 43).
Indeed, the colors of autumn became a recurring theme in O’Keeffe’s work; she first concentrated on painting the leaf in 1922 and would complete almost thirty canvases in the series by 1931, ranging in size from small studies to large-scale paintings like the present work. Several are in institutional collections, including the Art Institute of Chicago; Brooklyn Museum of Art; Columbus Museum of Art, Ohio; Dayton Art Institute, Ohio; Frederic R. Weisman Art Museum, Minneapolis; McNay Art Museum, San Antonio; Milwaukee Art Museum; New Mexico Museum of Art, Santa Fe; Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.; and Rhode Island School of Design, Providence. The focus on leaves as the central subject of these works rather than background filler was truly innovative, as Balge-Crozier explains, “Leaves by themselves do not turn up in the history of still-life painting until O’Keeffe elevates them to that privileged position” (op. cit., 1999, p. 54).
In Autumn Leaf II, O’Keeffe positions her oak leaf to fully dominate the picture plane, reverberating across the canvas in seemingly endless layers that echo just slightly off beat from each other. Basking in warm autumnal hues, ranging from dark red and burgundy to brighter crimson and orange, she employs a boldly outlined central stem to bisect the composition and emphasize the verticality of a natural form usually looked down upon from above. Her intense focus on the form almost approaches portraiture. The leaf’s separation from the life force of the tree as well as its angular irregularities—for example, what appear to be small gaps in the leaf’s lower edge—also suggest a memento mori interpretation. “These tiny fissures may be a reference to the disintegration that occurs with fallen leaves or a comment on her failing relationship with Alfred Stieglitz,” Erin B. Coe writes. With this symbolic element integral to the power of O’Keeffe’s seminal leaf series, Coe continues, “Of all her Lake George subjects, the leaf pictures are perhaps her most personal and autobiographical statement that O’Keeffe left of her years in northern New York” (op. cit., 2013, p. 64).

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