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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GEORGIA O'KEEFFE (1887-1986)

Blue Morning Glory

GEORGIA O'KEEFFE (1887-1986)
O'Keeffe, G.
Blue Morning Glory
signed with initials 'OK', dated '34' and inscribed with title (on the original backing)
oil on canvas
7 x 7 in. (17.8 x 17.8 cm.)
Painted in 1934.
The Downtown Gallery, New York.
Mrs. Albert Lasker, New York, acquired from the above, 1961.
Private collection, New York.
Andrew Crispo Gallery, New York.
Acquired by the late owner from the above, 1980.
B.B. Lynes, Georgia O'Keeffe: Catalogue Raisonné, vol. II, New Haven, Connecticut, 1999, p. 1106, no. 106, illustrated.
(Probably) Columbia, South Carolina, Gibbes Gallery of Art, February 8-March 6, 1955, no. 8.
Columbia, South Carolina, University of South Carolina, McKissick Museum; Charleston, South Carolina, Gibbes Gallery of Art, Georgia O'Keeffe and Her Circle, August-September 1980.

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Lot Essay

Morning glory flowers derive their name from their unusual blooming schedule, with the brilliant blue petals opening each morning into a trumpet shape for a few hours, before closing again by the afternoon. As a result, the morning glory has come to be associated not only with love and beauty, but also new beginnings, rejuvenation and the transience of life. The morning glory is thus a particularly clever subject for Georgia O’Keeffe, who burst onto the art scene in the 1920s with her bold paintings that isolate the delicate flower from the typical cycles of nature to elevate its form to the status of everlasting icon. As Marjorie P. Balge Crozier explains, “The passage of time—so important in nature and a frequent symbolic presence in still-life painting throughout history…is seldom a factor in O’Keeffe’s view of things, which appears to focus more on the eternal or universal…” (Georgia O’Keeffe: The Poetry of Things, Washington, D.C., 1999, p. 58) Preserving the blue morning glory at its brief, peak moment of bloom, the present work is a stunning gem epitomizing the innovative flowers for which O’Keeffe is best known.

O’Keeffe’s flowers evolved from her passion for sharing the intimate details of the natural environment that she believed many overlooked. She began painting her flower pictures in 1918, and they were shown for the first time by her dealer and future husband Alfred Stieglitz in 1923. By 1924, her floral subjects exploded into a sensation in the art world, in part due to their suggested sensual connotations, and O’Keeffe’s notoriety was born. She first explored the morning glory subject in 1926, painting three paintings of a white morning glory offset by a black petunia, including Morning Glory with Black (White Flower) in the collection of the Cleveland Museum of Art, Ohio.

The present work from 1934 is the first of four known works O’Keeffe painted of blue morning glories between 1934-36. The similarly intimately sized Blue Morning Glories (1935) is in the collection of the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center at Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, New York. This series was painted after O’Keeffe started regularly visiting New Mexico, a region in which the blue morning glory is perennial. Her explorations of nature in the Southwest also saw O’Keeffe start to explore bones and skulls in her still-life painting alongside flowers, including in Ram’s Head, Blue Morning Glory (1938, Georgia O’Keeffe Museum). Completed four years later, the blue morning glory in that work is depicted in a very similar manner as in the present painting.

The present work features a fragment of another painting on the reverse of the canvas with oval shapes in shades of green. These forms are reminiscent of O’Keeffe’s earlier works circa 1919-23 when she painted human torsos as well as still-life paintings of avocados, which were referred to as ‘alligator pears.’

Building on these early career ideas of still-life painting and abstraction and incorporating the unique clear sense of light and color from her first years in New Mexico, Blue Morning Glory is a special example of the iconic flower paintings that have established O’Keeffe among the most important artists of the twentieth century. As embodied by the present work, Roxana Robinson writes, “Her celebration of flowers was an expression of her feeling for the world around her, a reminder, bold and insistent, of a force besides that of speed and noise and machinery. Here was something else: ravishingly lovely, silent, breathtaking, and surprising." (Georgia O'Keeffe: A Life, New York, 1989, p. 277)

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