Drawn to the dramatic landscapes of Southern California, Canadian-born artist Henrietta Shore moved to Los Angeles in 1913, where she joined a small but influential group of Modernist painters. Fascinated by the vivid terrains of her new environment, Shore embarked on a series of depictions of the natural world, which would continue throughout her career. Exemplar of the artist's uncanny Modernist aesthetic is Irises circa 1930, a highlight of the upcoming American Art auction. Shown from a low foreground, the elegant, even austere, flowers tower against a dusky, otherworldly sky. Sinuous purple and white petals fold out from the vibrant yellow stamens at the flowers' centers, and deep green leaves frame the picture plane.
Throughout her life, Georgia O’Keeffe collected natural objects including flowers, bones, shells and leaves. She portrayed these organic forms in her paintings with a unique sense of freedom, using innovative form and colour. Shell (1937) and Blue and White Abstraction (1958) – two highlights of the upcoming American Art sale — were completed more than twenty years apart and exemplify the artist’s career-long fascination with relics of the natural world. O’Keeffe first incorporated shells as subject matter in her artwork in 1926, when she produced a group of realistic paintings of clamshells. That same year, she embarked on Shell and Old Shingle, a series which challenged the boundaries between figuration and abstraction, distilling the shell and shingle to their essential shapes. The shape of the shell held a special place in O’Keeffe’s imagination. Having grown up far from the ocean in rural Wisconsin, she recalled visiting her grandmother, who had a collection of shells that O'Keeffe, as a child, was not supposed to touch. O'Keeffe said, “I would take a shell...and hold it close to my ear. I had been told that the sound I heard was the sound of the sea – I had not heard the sea at that time but it was wonderful to me to listen to it in the shell.”
Following Sotheby’s record-breaking auctions of The Collection of Mrs. Paul Mellon in 2014, we are once again honored to present fine art acquired over a lifetime by this legendary tastemaker. Works by artists including Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro, Nicolas de Staël, Winslow Homer and Eugène Delacroix that have descended in the Mellon Family to present will be offered in a series of auctions at Sotheby’s New York, beginning this November and extending into 2018.