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)

On the Old Santa Fe Road

GEORGIA O'KEEFFE (1887-1986)
On the Old Santa Fe Road
oil on canvas
16 x 30 in. (40.6 x 76.2 cm.)
Painted circa 1930-1931
Doris Bry, New York.
Private collection, New York (1970).
Owings-Dewey Fine Art, Santa Fe, New Mexico.
The Burnett Foundation, Fort Worth, Texas (acquired from the above).
The Georgia O'Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe, New Mexico (gift from the above, 1999); sale, Sotheby’s, New York, 20 November 2014, lot 24.
Acquired at the above sale by the late owner.
D. Bry and N. Callaway, eds., Georgia O'Keeffe: In the West, New York, 1989 (illustrated in color, pl. 17).
B.B. Lynes, Georgia O'Keeffe: Catalogue Raisonné, New Haven, 1999, vol. I, p. 457, no. 751 (illustrated in color).
B.B. Lynes, Georgia O'Keeffe Museum Collections, New York, 2007, p. 227 (illustrated in color, pl. 202).
(probably) New York, An American Place, Georgia O'Keeffe: 33 New Paintings (New Mexico), December 1931-January 1932.
Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Gallery, Five Painters, January-February 1937, no. 44.
Santa Fe, New Mexico, Georgia O'Keeffe Museum, The Georgia O'Keeffe Museum: Acquisitions and Promised Gifts Since 1997 and Selections from the Permanent Collection, An Exhibition in Honor of the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum's 5th Anniversary, June-September 2002.
Fondazione Roma Museo Palazzo Cipolla; Munich, Kunsthalle der Hypo-Kulturstiftung and Helsinki Art Museum, Georgia O'Keeffe, October 2011-September 2012, pp. 91 and 160, no. 37 (illustrated in color).
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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Vanessa Fusco
Vanessa Fusco Head of Department, Impressionist & Modern Art, New York

Lot Essay

On her second visit to New Mexico in 1930, Georgia O’Keeffe wrote home to her husband, the photographer and art dealer Alfred Stieglitz, “Here I am in Santa Fe again…I enjoyed the ride—a cool blue morning with a few clouds floating about…it is curious the way I discover new things on the road when I am alone—the mountains were fine…I don’t know what it is about this country—It just seems to turn all my insides over…” (quoted in S. Greenough, ed., My Faraway One: Selected Letters of Georgia O’Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz, New Haven, 2011, p. 551). Indeed, O’Keeffe was instantly captivated by the rugged, open landscape and the spiritual character of New Mexico on her visit in 1929, even learning how to drive so she could fully explore the magnificent mountain vistas to be found off the roads around Santa Fe and Taos. During her frequent visits in the following years and after her permanent move in 1949, she sought to capture this natural beauty in a modern abstracted style, emphasizing its undulating forms, bright sunlight and wide spectrum of color. Painted during one of her earliest visits to the area, On the Old Santa Fe Road is a beautiful memento of O’Keeffe’s first adventures in the American Southwest.
During the summers of 1930 and 1931, O’Keeffe stayed at the H&M Ranch as the guest of the poet Marie Tudor Garland. Just south of Alcalde, New Mexico—roughly 40 miles southwest of Taos along the Rio Grande—the spare landscape endlessly inspired her. On May 8, 1931, she wrote to Stieglitz from Alcalde, “I would like to ride you around and show you all the things I like so much” (quoted in My Faraway One: Selected Letters of Georgia O’Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz, p. 562). She turned a Ford Model A into a mobile studio, removing the front passenger chair and unbolting the driver’s seat to turn around so she could use the backseat as her easel. Reflecting on her drives around the area, O’Keeffe opined, “I think I never had a better time painting—and never worked more steadily and never loved the country more” (quoted in R. Robinson, Georgia O’Keeffe: A Life, Hanover, 1999, p. 359).
In On the Old Santa Fe Road, O’Keeffe conveys her awe with the local landscape in focusing on the intricacies and color variations of a mountain formation. She employs a wide range of yellows, oranges, tans and browns to capture that unique, surprisingly colorful palette of the ridges and hills in the Southwest. Removing all evidence of foliage, wildlife and surface rubble, her subject becomes a play of pure light and shadow. The cropped perspective—showing the mountain as if from below with only a hint of bright blue sky above—decontextualizes the scene and underscores the monumentality and majesty of the setting. Sarah Greenough explains, “As she shed New York and embraced the brilliant light of New Mexico, her work became cleaner and sharper as she began to employ greatly simplified forms...encapsulating not only the passion and intensity of the life in the Southwest but also its ultimate mystery and impenetrable sense of otherness.” (Modern Art and America: Alfred Stieglitz and his New York Galleries, Washington, D.C., 2000, p. 460)
On the Old Santa Fe Road particularly delights in the folds and curves of the unusual land formations of the area, outlining the contours of the terrain with the same attention to detail—heightened almost to the point of abstraction—as in O’Keeffe’s famous flower paintings. O’Keeffe united her parallel fascinations with these two subjects in such works as Red Hills with Flowers (1937, Art Institute of Chicago). In On the Old Santa Fe Road, the subtle gradients of color and graduating layers of rounded forms add a petal-like suppleness to the solidity of the mountain, creating a duality that elevates the work beyond its reality. This palpable softness she imbues within the hardness of the desert equates the landscape painting to almost the point of portraiture—and anthropomorphism. “Many of O’Keeffe’s New Mexican landscapes can also be seen as Bodyscapes, ‘where body components are metaphorically matched in detail with landscape features.’ As Bram Djikstra observes, ‘she learned to capture, in the sensuously curving lines and gullies of the landscape, in the subtly rhythmic flanks of trees, and even in the sultry dance of pelvic bones, the world of analogy to be found in nature to the emotions within her’” (J. Stewart, “New Horizons: Seeing and Space, Being and Landscape in Lawrence’s and Georgia O’Keeffe’s New Mexico,” in "Terra Incognita": D.H. Lawrence at the Frontiers, Cranbury, New Jersey, 2010, p. 106).
O’Keeffe felt that words could not capture her deep connection with the wonders of the Southwest, and her paintings are her powerful way of communicating the unique beauty in its sparseness. As the artist wrote from New Mexico in 1930, “—It seems quite impossible to tell what the country is like—This morning as we drove to the east—it seemed that one was right at the heart of something…here and there soft hills like I tried to paint—only sometimes long stretches of them outlined pale against the burning blue sky…the principal feeling of it all is grand dry barrenness…I wish I could make you feel just a little of it all” (quoted in My Faraway One: Selected Letters of Georgia O’Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz, pp. 547-48).

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