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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)

From Pink Shell

Georgia O'Keeffe (1887-1986)
From Pink Shell
inscribed 'Jan-25' (on the stretcher)
oil on canvas
20 x 17 in. (50.8 x 43.2 cm.)
Painted in 1931.
The artist
The Downtown Gallery, New York
Private Collection, 1961
Private Collection, 1988
Wildenstein Gallery, New York, 2001
Private collection, California
A.J. Kollar Fine Paintings LLC, Seattle
Acquired from the above by the present owner
B.B. Lynes, Georgia O'Keeffe: Catalogue Raisonné, vol. II, New Haven, 1999. p. 1106, no. 102 (incorrectly listed as pastel).

Brought to you by

Ana Maria Celis
Ana Maria Celis Post-War & Contemporary Art

Lot Essay

Georgia O'Keeffe's lifelong fascination with the shapes and colors that she found in nature manifested itself in her various depictions of diverse physical forms. Natural objects ranging from sensuous shells and exotic flowers to more modest items, such as autumn leaves and skunk cabbage, found their way equally into her paintings. Painted in 1931, From Pink Shell demonstrates the artist's unique way of interpreting and simplifying these forms to create her compositions. O'Keeffe explained, "It is lines and colors put together so that they must say something. For me, that is the very basis of painting. The abstraction is often the most definite form for the intangible thing in myself that I can only clarify in paint" (G. O’Keeffe, as quoted in C. Eldredge, Georgia O'Keeffe, New York, 1991, p. 36).

As she does in her best works, here O'Keeffe relies on gradations in color to define form and create structural depth using varying shades; in this manner, she transforms a seemingly ordinary beach shell into a profound vision of pink that reflects her intimate connection with her natural surroundings. As a student of Arthur Wesley Dow, O'Keeffe was influenced by his teachings of what was known to his students as "the trinity of power": line, color and notan—the Japanese concept of using balanced values of darks and lights. These ideas were further reinforced through her own readings in modern art theory and through her close relationship with Alfred Stieglitz and other Modernist artists. The importance of line, shadowing and color can all be seen in the present painting, in which O'Keeffe focuses on the nuances of purple, green and yellow, and the intersections between those colors, within the overall pink form of her abstracted shell.

Whereas many Modernists such as Charles Sheeler, John Marin and Arthur Dove turned to the industrial sector for guidance and inspiration in subject matter, O'Keeffe embraced the natural world. "O'Keeffe's work, a counter-response to technology, was soft, voluptuous and intimate. Full 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" (R. Robinson, Georgia O'Keeffe: A Life, New York, 1989, p. 278). Applying Modernist aesthetics to natural subjects allowed O'Keeffe to concentrate on color, form and design, allowing her to draw the viewer's attention to their often-unappreciated beauty. The composition on the reverse of the present work closely resembles O'Keeffe's Green Leaves of 1922 (Private collection, Memphis)."...Each shell was a beautiful world in itself—Georgia O'Keeffe

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