Painting of the Day

21 Mar

Black Abstraction. by Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986). Oil on canvas, 1927. Currently on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC.

Notes from

Georgia O’Keeffe played a pivotal role in the development of American modernism and its relationship with European vanguard movements of the early 20th century.  Producing a substantial body of work over eight decades, she sought to capture the emotion and power of objects through abstracting the natural world.  Aware of own importance as an artist from early on, she used signs, symbols and a palette unlike any artist before her.  Alfred Stieglitz identified her as the first female American Modernist, whose paintings of flowers, barren landscapes and close up still-lifes have become a part of the mythology and iconography of the American artistic landscape. Her vibrant palette, rigorous formalism and explorations of scale makes her signature style among the most recognized internationally.

O’Keeffe was one of the first American artists to adapt abstraction to American motifs. Heavily influenced by the cropping techniques of Paul Strand’s photography, she managed to both synthesize aspects of art that was being produced around her and forge her own energetic style.

Her unique vision did not adhere to any art movement; rather she synthesized abstraction and realism to produce works, often in series that distilled her formal technique and emotive content.

Her technical contributions include use of intense color, linear precision and experimentation with the scale of objects, as well as maintaining a reductive quality and formal balance in her compositions.

My comments:

When I saw this painting at the Met, I was very surprised that it was by Georgia O’Keeffe because of the subject matter. I’m so used to seeing her paintings of flowers and animal skulls or the desert that to see something like this that is for certain abstract but ambiguous in terms of whether it is derived completely from the imagination or from something the artist saw in real life. I very much recognize O’Keeffe’s painting style here in terms of the way she applies paint to the canvas, the texture of the canvas, and how she blends and uses color, but the abstract image here is strikingly unusual compared to what she is most famous for in her oeuvre. But as an abstract image, it’s very interesting and even manages to be unique after there has been nearly 100 years now of abstract paintings.

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