The highlight of a recent trip to Santa Fe, NM, was a visit to the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum. There was an excellent video about her life. In Texas Georgia O’Keeffe found her artistic voice, reducing very complex forms to their most basic colors, shapes, and lines. In New Mexico, she found her subject matter.
One of the things I liked best was seeing tiny line drawings–very minimal thumbnails–hung beside finished paintings based on those sketches.
Study for No. 24 – Special
No. 24 – Special / No. 24, 1916-1917
I actually prefer the sketch, which is about 3 x 5 inches or 4 x 6, to the finished painting. Here’s another example–
These six diagonal lines, on a 4 x 6 inch (not sure of the size) piece of paper
Untitled (Abstraction), 1963/1964
became this painting, which is fairly large.
Clouds 5 / Yellow Horizon and Clouds, 1963/1964
The painting is quite beautiful and one I’d not seen before.
There were also a larger selection of her watercolors than I’d ever seen. She used intense, saturated colors, laid down very wet, but with separations. She tended to use primary colors, straight from the tube. There were at least 3 versions of Evening Star, 1917.
Evening Star No. II, 1917
I wonder how many versions she did and whether she trashed any?
Much later in her life, with her eye sight failing, she returned to watercolor and abstraction.
Untitled (Abstraction Green Line and Red Circle), 1970’s
Untitled (Abstraction Green Line and Three Red Circles), 1970’s
Untitled Abstraction, 1970’s
Untitled abstraction, 1970’s
These later abstractions were painted on full-sized sheets of watercolor paper (22″ x 30″).
She traveled a lot in the 1960’s and kept travel boxes of papers gathered in each of the countries she visited.
Untitled (Mt. Fuji), 1960
Here are some of the “take-aways” I left with:
- She repeated her compositions over and over, like Evening Star.
- She painted the same mountain over and over, as did Cezanne.
Road to Pedernal, 1941
- Many of her paintings could be cut into large puzzle pieces.
The White Place – A Memory, 1943
Is this painted from memory?
- Her figure studies sit on the paper like the figures in Japanese woodcuts.
I left eager to work with my own Southwestern sketches, pencil scrawls made as we floated down the Grand Canyon on a motorized raft. Her colors, her shapes, her compositions all speak to me.