Alfred Stieglitz, New York
Flora Stieglitz Straus (his niece), New York, circa 1925
Gift to the present owner from the above (her daughter)
New York, The Anderson Galleries, Alfred Stieglitz Presents Seven Americans: 159 Paintings, Photographs & Things, Recent & Never Before Publicly Shown, by Arthur G. Dove, Marsden Hartley, John Marin, Charles Demuth, Paul Strand, George O'Keeffe, Alfred Stieglitz, March 1925, no. 124
New York, Owen Gallery, American Modern, April-June 2001
1924 marked an important year for Georgia O’Keeffe. The year not only brought about her marriage to Stieglitz but also a renewed sense of confidence for the artist, who in her union with Stieglitz, had discovered her artistic identity. During this year, O’Keeffe began painting her first large-scale magnified flower pictures, with which the artist would be identified for much of her career. While intimate in scale, Petunias in Oval No. 2, painted in 1924, clearly anticipates her enlarged floral imagery that was to follow shortly by engulfing the small surface with a powerful image of color and form. The undulating waves of the lush petals and leaves extend to the edge of the pictorial plane in every direction, as though the flowers are swelling to overwhelm the boundaries set by the canvas.
O’Keeffe’s early preoccupation with color and form found a match in painting flowers whose organic shapes lent themselves to abstraction. This turn to natural objects for inspiration shared concerns with contemporary photography of the time. Stieglitz and his circle, notably Paul Strand, were of undoubted influence on O’Keeffe as she shifted in this new direction. As Charles C. Eldredge notes, “Paralleling the work of many photographers in the 1920’s, she began to focus closely on her motifs, separating the flowers from their natural environs to examine their forms and colors at close hand. Her oils of the 1920’s were, however, more faithful to the appearance of her floral subjects, but they never lapsed into botanical illustration, their formal concerns for color and design always remaining paramount” (Georgia O’Keeffe, New York, 1991, p. 78). Like the photographic work of her colleagues, her flower paintings elicited a great response from a fascinated public. Eldredge observes, “As a self-conscious modernist, she was aware as well of the more novel interpretations given to the blossoms. As a formalist, she was also attuned to the artistic possibilities that close study of flowers afforded. Her achievement rests in creating memorable images which layer form and disparate meaning in rich and complex patterns” (Georgia O’Keeffe, p. 90).
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