Lot 10
  • 10

Georgia O'Keeffe 1887 - 1986

1,500,000 - 2,500,000 USD
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  • Georgia O'Keeffe
  • Autumn Leaf II
  • signed with the artist's star and initials OK and inscribed by Alfred Stieglitz Autumn Leaves no. 2 / 1927 / by Georgia O'Keeffe on the backing board
  • oil on canvas
  • 32 by 21 inches
  • (81.3 by 53.3 cm)
  • Painted in 1927.


The Downtown Gallery, New York
Sidney Janis Gallery, New York
Albert D. Lasker, New York, 1961 (sold: Sotheby Parke Bernet, New York, April 25, 1980, lot 246, illustrated in color)
Kennedy Galleries, New York and Robert Miller Gallery, Inc., New York, 1980
Acquired by the present owner, 1984


New York, Intimate Gallery, O'Keeffe Exhibition, January-February 1928, no. 29 (listed as Autumn Leaf - B)
Tulsa, Oklahoma, Philbrook Museum of Art, Georgia O'Keeffe Retrospective Exhibition, October-November 1952
Dallas, Texas, Dallas Museum of Fine Arts; Delray Beach, Florida, Mayo Hill Galleries, An Exhibition of Paintings by Georgia O'Keeffe, February-April 1953
Amherst, Massachusetts, Mead Art Building, Amherst College, 13 Painters 40 Years, May 1956
New York, Gallery of Modern Art, The Twenties Revisited, June-September 1965
Tulsa, Oklahoma, Philbrook Museum of Art, Painters of the Humble Truth: American Still Life Painting, September 1981-July 1982, no. 99


Barbara Buhler Lynes, Georgia O'Keeffe: Catalogue Raisonné, New Haven, Connecticut, 1999, vol. I, no. 605, p. 353, illustrated in color


Very good condition. Unlined. There are a series of short diagonal cracks at upper right, but the painting is generally in excellent structural condition. Under UV: two small spots in the lower right corner. One very small spot on the lower left edge, one tiny spot of inpainting center right edge, and a hairline of inpainting lower right quadrant.
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.

Catalogue Note

Georgia O’Keeffe, who drew inspiration for her motifs from her environment, first visited Lake George in 1908. The lake and bucolic shoreline were an early and enduring attraction for prominent American landscape artists, including Frederic Edwin Church and Jasper Francis Cropsey, and by the turn of the 19th century the location had become a favored destination among America’s vacationing elite. A decade passed before O’Keeffe returned to the area, during which time she worked as a commercial artist in Chicago and an art teacher inTexas, simultaneously evolving her unique artistic approach through experiments with various media and subject matter. One such venture, a series of innovative charcoal abstractions executed in 1916, brought O’Keeffe to the attention of Alfred Stieglitz. By 1918 the two were inextricably intertwined; he was her mentor and dealer, she was his artistic and photographic muse. Romantically involved despite his marital status, the couple made the pilgrimage that summer to Oaklawn, the Stieglitz family’s imposing and luxurious cottage on the shores of Lake George. Stieglitz and O’Keeffe would ultimately marry and for the next 11 years divide their time between his apartment in New York City and the Lake George farm. The couple's creative and artistic output during this period is arguably one of the most significant contributions to American modernism.

Feeling increasingly suffocated by New York City, O’Keeffe traveled to Lake George and in 1929 to New Mexico, where the landscape inspired her to further develop her singular imagery. Focusing on magnified images of flowers, leaves and other natural objects, O’Keeffe rediscovered her interest in still-life compositions. By purposefully zeroing in on her subject - in the same way the cameras of Stieglitz and Paul Strand (Fig. 2) zoomed in mechanically - she was able to isolate the image and concentrate fully on color and form. As her approach developed, the increasing size and scale of the subject, as well as the selectivity of her compositional details, began to exert a more profound visual resonance. O’Keeffe’s tendency toward abstraction was a conscious one - while her vision remained tempered with vestiges of realism, she sought and achieved something more individual. She said, “It is surprising to me to see how many people separate the objective from the abstract. Objective painting is not good painting unless it is good in the abstract sense. A hill or tree cannot make a good painting just because it is a hill or a tree. It is lines and colors put together so that they say something. For me that is the very basis of painting” (Barbara Haskell, Georgia O’Keeffe: Abstraction, 2009, p. 166).

Autumn Leaf II brilliantly exemplifies the exquisite balance O’Keeffe established between abstraction and realism. The work is encountered from a bird’s eye view, with layers of color surrounding the leaf, which, enlarged, fills the canvas and flattens the space. Barbara Lynes writes, “She cropped forms, eliminated or distorted relationships between foreground and background elements, compressed space, and forced her subjects forward, as if seen through a close-up lens…It is clear that O’Keeffe was fascinated with the world around her, and she collected objects whose particular qualities—color, shape, texture—symbolized for her the meaning of a specific place or experience…and by isolating them from any environmental reference transformed the simple and seemingly nondescript objects into centralized, monumental forms” (Barbara Lynes, Georgia O’Keeffe Museum Collections, 2007, pp. 143, 175). Painted in 1927, Autumn Leaf II belongs to one of the most formative periods in the artist’s oeuvre, during which time she defined the subjects and styles that would characterize her most iconic images.