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

White Calico Rose

GEORGIA O'KEEFFE (1887-1986)
White Calico Rose
signed and dated 'Georgia O'Keeffe -1930-' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
30 x 36 in. (76.2 x 91.4 cm.)
Painted in 1930
An American Place, New York.
Dr. Leo and Edith Mayer, New York (acquired from the above, 1931).
Else and Lloyd McKean, Scarsdale, New York (bequest from the above, 1972).
Washburn Gallery, New York (1980).
Edward R. Downe, Jr., New York (acquired from the above, 1980).
Anon. sale, Sotheby’s, New York, 5 December 1985, lot 237A.
A. Alfred and Judith Taubman, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan (acquired at the above sale).
Acquired from the above by the late owner, 2001.
"The Art Galleries," New Yorker Magazine, 31 January 1931 (titled White Rose).
Art in America, vol. 69, 1981, p. 4 (illustrated in color; titledThe White Rose, New Mexico).
R. Reif, “Peale Portrait Brings Record Price at Auction” in New York Times, 6 December 1985, p. 28 (titled White Rose, New Mexico).
L.S. Gelb, D. Saltman, “10 O’Keeffes to National Gallery” in Washington Post, 14 March 1986 (titled White Rose, New Mexico).
N. Callaway, “Georgia O’Keeffe: One Hundred Flowers” in Artspace: Southwestern Contemporary Arts Quarterly, Winter 1987-1988, pp. 27-28 (illustrated in color; titled White Rose, New Mexico).
N. Calloway, Georgia O'Keeffe: One Hundred Flowers, New York, 1989, no. 99 (illustrated in color; titled White Rose, New Mexico).
R. Looney, O’Keeffe and Me: A Treasured Friendship, Niwot, Colorado, 1995, p. 53 (titled White Rose, New Mexico).
B.B. Lynes, Georgia O'Keeffe: Catalogue Raisonné, New Haven, 1999, vol. I, p. 439, no. 722 (illustrated in color in situ at the 1931 An American Place exhibition, vol. II, p. 1121, fig. 44).
H. Drohojowska-Philp, Full Bloom: The Art and Life of Georgia O’Keeffe, New York, 2004, p. 324.
V. Norwood and J. Monk, eds., The Desert Is No Lady: Southwestern Landscapes in Women’s Writing and Art, New Haven, 1987, pp. 210 and 212, fig. 10.7 (illustrated; titled White Rose, New Mexico).
S. Greenough, ed., My Faraway One: Selected Letters of Georgia O’Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz, New Haven, Connecticut, 2011, p. 632n432.
N.J. Scott, Critical Lives: Georgia O’Keeffe, London, 2015, p. 231n13.
New York, An American Place, Georgia O’Keeffe: Recent Paintings, New Mexico, New York, Etc.–Etc., January-February 1931.
Munich, Germany, Haus der Kunst, Amerikanische Malerei 1930-1980 (American Painting 1930-1980), November 1981-January 1982, p. 22, no. 2 (illustrated; titled The White Rose, New Mexico).
Santa Fe, New Mexico, Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, The Georgia O’Keeffe Museum Inaugural Exhibition, July 1997-April 1998 (titled White Rose, New Mexico).
Santa Fe, New Mexico, Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Georgia O’Keeffe and Andy Warhol: Flowers of Distinction, May 2005-January 2006, pp. 44 and 75, no. 16 (illustrated in color).
Santa Fe, New Mexico, Georgia O’Keeffe Museum (on loan, 2021-2022).
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.

Brought to you by

Vanessa Fusco
Vanessa Fusco Head of Department, Impressionist & Modern Art, New York

Lot Essay

Georgia O’Keeffe’s most iconic paintings distill the artist’s emotional connection to her environment into a single powerful image. Dating to O’Keeffe’s second extended stay in New Mexico in 1930, White Calico Rose not only epitomizes O’Keeffe’s celebrated magnified flower imagery, but also evokes the spirituality reflective of her life in the Southwest. The work was first exhibited at Alfred Stieglitz’s An American Place gallery in 1931, alongside works including Jack-in-the-Pulpit No. IV (1930, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.), Clam Shell (1930) and Black Hollyhock, Blue Larkspur (1929, both Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York). White Calico Rose immediately attracted praise during this initial debut, with The New Yorker critic Murdock Pemberton writing, “She has come forth with a virile blending of her old style and her new…Miss O’Keeffe has added a new richness (we doubt if any of her first superb flower pieces can come up to the ‘White Rose’ in this exhibit)” (“The Art Galleries; This Year’s O’Keeffe,” January 31, 1931, p. 53).
In the new arid landscape of the Southwest, O’Keeffe’s subject matter turned to more daring alternatives to her previous flowers—the white bones of the desert, and as in the present work, the fabric flowers prevalent in local rituals. Often these two new motifs were presented together, as in such famed works as Cow’s Skull with Calico Roses (1931, Art Institute of Chicago). In the present work, as well as in White Calico Flower (1931, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York), the subject boldly occupies the large canvas in a poetic expression of everlasting beauty.
O’Keeffe discovered the calico flowers in New Mexico through her friend and fellow artist, Rebecca Salsbury James, who was the first wife of photographer Paul Strand and accompanied O’Keeffe on her initial trips out West. James found the white cloth flowers in a small store in Taos, where they were sold to be placed on gravestones and beneath statues of the Virgin on feast days, as well as for wedding decorations. Marveling at these objects homemade by local Hispanic women, James began to paint them and wrote home to Strand, “they are really quite beautiful. Pure clear white & a nice shape” (quoted in O’Keeffe & Stieglitz: An American Romance, New York, 1991, p. 393). O’Keeffe soon also collected the local cloth and paper flowers, calling them “beautifully designed and much more satisfactory as models than the more living variety,” since they did not change or wilt during the process of painting (quoted in L. Kroiz, Creative Composites: Modernism, Race, and the Stieglitz Circle, Berkeley, 2012, p. 182). Before returning home to New York, she shipped a box filled with not only bones and skulls discovered in New Mexico, but also the calico flowers.
Beyond their practical convenience as ever bright and fresh models for still lifes, the cloth flowers also infuse works like White Calico Rose with layers of meaning beyond O’Keeffe’s usual flower picture. Given their association with celebrations of life and death in the local culture, the painting provides a modern take on the centuries old tradition of memento mori still-life painting—a perfectly preserved, undying specimen of nature that nonetheless evokes reminders of mortality. This symbolism is underscored by O’Keeffe’s coupling of the calico rose with the bones of the desert, as she stated in 1931: “Bones and flowers run together in my mind when I think of the desert...And so I have put them together—actually to express what I feel about the desert” (quoted in Creative Composites, p. 182). This juxtaposition in works such as Horse’s Skull with White Rose (1931, Private Collection, on extended loan to the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe) recalls the decorative skeletons of Day of the Dead parades, celebrating both the beauty and fragility of life.
By magnifying the calico rose to magnificent scale and placing it at the center of the canvas, O’Keeffe boldly forces the viewer to acknowledge both her subject and herself as the creator of its message. Yet, by depicting an artificial flower, the painting also raises questions about authenticity in art. Elizabeth Duvert explains, “Both flowers in [White Calico Rose] are artificial. One is a locally made fabric flower like those that decorate New Mexico’s cemeteries; the other, O’Keeffe’s painted image. Like her other works, this painting begins with an element native to the southwestern landscape, and through art it is transformed into a portrait of itself, the place from which it came, and perhaps the artist herself, widening our notions of the world and the painter’s ability to make us understand our relation with that world. O’Keeffe’s painting of the New Mexico rose is art about art, a revelation of the artifice through which the painter has shared her vision of the southwestern landscape” (“With Stone, Star, and Earth,” The Desert is No Lady: Southwestern Landscapes in Women’s Writing and Art, New Haven, 1987, p. 210).
O’Keeffe’s technique in White Calico Rose further plays with the theme of painted versus actual reality. In the abstracted background painted in shades of black, gray, cream and dark green, O’Keeffe suggests the texture of perhaps a tree trunk, bone or other found organic material, yet identification remains ethereal. To create this patterning, she both paints to mimic texture, but also may have deliberately manipulated her paint layer in order to create further texture on the surface. Dale Kronkright, Head of Conservation at the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum explains, “Drying craquelure across the dark, black paints in the lower background, immediately below the flower figure, appear original to the execution of the work…The darkest passages of the green-tinted black background and foreground immediately surrounding the flower figure may have been amended with turpentine or driers to increase their matte qualities and exhibit a stable, overall fine, drying craquelure which follows the patterns of the brushwork…She is known to have used the same paints to this effect in her depiction of a tree in 1929.” (unpublished condition report, 21 May 2019)
In addition to technical experimentations, White Calico Rose reflects O’Keeffe’s personal development at this key moment in her career. As she ventured into a new, independent lifestyle in New Mexico, away from the institutions and opinions of the New York art scene, she also rebelled against the sexualized interpretations which had been placed on her flower paintings since the early 1920s. In fact, her use of a pure white, chaste color palette in the present work—and in her calla lilies, jimson weeds and shells—is a deliberate means to emphasize her own experience of the flower, without her notoriety as a female artist obscuring her true message. When describing the present work, O’Keeffe explained, “maybe in terms of paint color I can convey to you my experience of the flower or the experience that makes the flower of significance to me at that particular time.” (quoted in H. Drojowska-Philp, Full Bloom: The Art and Life of Georgia O'Keeffe, New York, 2004, p. 346)
With this distinct color palette coupled with a strong composition, and symbolic grounding in the unique spirit of the Southwest, O’Keeffe elevated and enriches her iconic flower imagery in White Calico Rose to create one of the most powerful pictures of her oeuvre.

More from 20th Century Evening Sale

View All
View All