The present work is one of three abstract portraits by Georgia O'Keeffe of the photographer Paul Strand. Another version is in the collection of the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe, New Mexico.
In May of 1917, O'Keeffe took a spur of the moment journey to New York from Canyon, Texas, to see Alfred Stieglitz for the closing of his first gallery, 291. During her stay in New York, which she described as "the most wonderful days of my life," O'Keeffe met and mingled with some of Stieglitz's other 291 artists for the first time, such as Abraham Walkowitz, Stanton MacDonald-Wright and Paul Strand. (as quoted in S. Greenough, ed., My Faraway One: Selected Letters of Georgia O'Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz, New Haven, Connecticut, 2011, p. 150) Animated by the people and art she saw in New York, O'Keeffe arrived back in Canyon that June and created two series of abstract portraits—one of Kindred Watkins, an Amarillo local with whom O'Keeffe had a complicated romantic relationship, and Paul Strand, with whom she would exchange romantic letters over the coming months.
Soon after Alfred Stieglitz saw the abstract portraits of Strand and Watkins, he wrote to O'Keeffe in June 1917, "—Those paintings!—All three are remarkable—the Portrait uncanny—powerful—The red one—what can I say—I had to think of the first color things I saw of yours—Incredible this new work—" (as quoted in My Faraway One: Selected Letters of Georgia O'Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz, p. 162)