NEW YORK - Of the many photographs that Alfred Stieglitz made of Georgia O’Keeffe from the 1910s to the 1930s, this portrait is one of the few that shows the artist at work. Taken at the Stieglitz family home in Lake George, New York, this study shows O’Keeffe seated outside and painting in watercolor, a medium that she had been working with intensively since 1916. O’Keeffe and Stieglitz had first met in 1915 and then began a gradually intensifying correspondence that culminated in O’Keeffe’s move to New York City in June of 1918. Stieglitz’s consuming desire for O’Keeffe did not blind him to her talent as an artist or to the importance of her work. While many of Stieglitz’s remarkable early studies of O’Keeffe stem directly from their passion for one another and focus on O’Keeffe’s body, the present image captures O’Keeffe in action, creating the work that captivated Stieglitz and would ultimately make her one of the most significant artists of the 20th century.


An exemplary early print of this image will be offered in Sotheby’s Photographs auction in New York on 7 October. This print was given by O’Keeffe to her sister, Anita O’Keeffe Young, the well-known socialite and wife of railroad magnate Robert R. Young. Anita was an enthusiastic collector of her sister’s art, and she acquired many of O’Keeffe’s most celebrated paintings and drawings, including Jimson Weed/White Flower No. 1 (sold by Sotheby’s in 2014 and now in the collection of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art). 

In her art, O’Keeffe pushed herself relentlessly to achieve perfection, and commented wryly to her sister Anita, “I’ve just come to the comforting conclusion that I’ll have to paint acres and acres of watercolor landscapes before I will look for a passibly [sic] fair one” (O’Keeffe on Paper, National Gallery of Art, 2000., p. 66).