Visiting the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe, NM

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.

watercolor on paper

Evening Star

watercolor on paper

Evening Star No. II, 1917

watercolor on paper

Evening Star

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.

watercolor on paper, 22" x 30"

Untitled (Abstraction Green Line and Red Circle), 1970’s

watercolor on paper, 22" x 30"

Untitled (Abstraction Green Line and Three Red Circles), 1970’s

watercolor on paper, 30" x 22"

Untitled Abstraction, 1970’s

watercolor on paper, 30" x 22"

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.


Travel boxes


Travel boxes

oil on canvas

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.



oil on canvas


oil on canvas

Pedernal, 1941/1942

oil on canvas

Road to Pedernal, 1941

  • Many of her paintings could be cut into large puzzle pieces.
oil on canvas

The White Place – A Memory, 1943

Is this painted from memory?

  • Her figure studies sit on the paper like the figures in Japanese woodcuts.
watercolor on paper


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.






About sallie wolf

I am a full-time artist, writer, and avid journal keeper. I am happily married to Chuck Wolf and we have two sons, now grown. I was born in Virginia, have spend as much time as possible in New Hampshire at my family's summer house, and have lived in the Chicago area for most of my adult life.
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One Response to Visiting the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe, NM

  1. vicky boreyko says:

    Hey Sal – Really enjoyed this post, love Georgia O’Keeffe.  Would be great to get to that museum sometime.  Santa Fe is actually on my list of places I’d like to go.  I like the sketches too, esp. the one of the diagonal lines for the painting Clouds 5, Yellow Horizon and Clouds.Just love the sparse simplicity of the lines and that they suggest so much.

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