Lot 34
  • 34

Georgia O'Keeffe 1887 - 1986

2,500,000 - 3,500,000 USD
2,965,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Georgia O'Keeffe
  • Lake George Barn (Lake George Barns)
  • oil on canvas
  • 18 by 32 inches
  • (45.7 by 81.3 cm)
  • Painted in 1929.


The Downtown Gallery, New York
Robert F. Woolworth, Winthrop, Maine, 1958
Anne Woolworth, New York, 1959 (gift from the above)
Georgina Carter Johnson, New York, before 1986 (gift from the above)
Coe Kerr Gallery, New York
Gerald Peters Gallery, Santa Fe, New Mexico, 1986
Acquired by the present owner from the above, 1988


Phoenix, Arizona, Phoenix Art Museum; Tokyo, Japan, Seibu Museum; Osaka, Japan, Seibu Museum; Aspen, Colorado, Aspen Art Museum, Georgia O'Keeffe: Selected Painting, April 1988-February 1989, no. 18


Sarah Whitaker Peters, Becoming O’Keeffe: The Early Years, New York, 1991, p. 359n22
Barbara Buhler Lynes, Georgia O'Keeffe: Catalogue Raisonné, New Haven, Connecticut, 1999, vol. I, no. 655, p. 393, illustrated in color

Catalogue Note

From 1919 until 1928, Georgia O'Keeffe divided her time between New York City and the Adirondacks, spending each summer at Alfred Stieglitz's farmhouse in Lake George, New York. The months the couple spent in the country provided a respite from the bustle of city life. O’Keeffe converted one of the barns on the property into a studio as a place to escape from the demands made by the constant stream of summertime visitors, about whom she frequently complained in her letters from this period. Regardless of the social distractions, the bucolic environment of Lake George deeply inspired her: “I wish you could see the place here,” she wrote in a 1923 letter to Sherwood Anderson, “there is something so perfect about the mountains and the trees—Sometimes I want to tear it all to pieces—it seems so perfect—but it is really lovely—And when the household is in good running order—and I feel free to work it is very nice” (Erin B. Coe, Gwendolyn Owns and Bruce Robertson, Modern Nature: Georgia O’Keeffe and Lake George, Glens Falls, New York, 2013, p. 15). Lake George provided O'Keeffe with both time to paint and an abundant source of subject matter for her still-lifes and landscapes. She was highly productive during the extended periods she spent there, ultimately producing approximately 200 paintings on canvas and paper, in addition to sketches and pastels.

Painted in 1929, Lake George Barn belongs to a group of works in which O'Keeffe considers the interaction between man-made structures and their natural surroundings. The work is one of 14 she executed of barns and other structures on the Stieglitz property. In the present painting, O’Keeffe renders the old farm buildings as simplified geometric planes, allowing her to explore the visual relationships between vertical, diagonal and horizontal lines. These rectilinear forms are juxtaposed against the sinuous curves of the earth, mountains and sky. The vibrant red of the structures contrasts dynamically with the more subtle palette she uses to render the natural elements of the scene. The sky—painted in a steely gray hue—evokes the incredible summer storms for which the region was famous: “The weather up here has gone absolutely mad,” Stieglitz wrote to O’Keeffe in 1919. “I have never seen such skies—Lightning changes of infinite variety—as the last three days here. We are having summer, autumn, spring and winter within a few hours” (Stieglitz to O’Keeffe, September 3, 1919, Stieglitz Collection, Yale Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut) (Fig. 1). O’Keeffe’s vision of the barn as a symbolic and literal haven is illustrated in Lake George Barn, in which she depicts the structure as a sturdy shelter from the impending storm.

In their search for a national art, artists in Stieglitz’s circle frequently turned to subjects and themes they viewed as an expression of authentic and uniquely American values. Among Stieglitz’s favorite photographic subjects, the barn is a distinctively American architectural type, which symbolized the heartland of the country, its agrarian roots and its puritan work ethic (Fig. 2). Its simplified lines and functionalism appealed to the artists working with the spare, rigorous precisionist aesthetic most often associated with Charles Sheeler. In Sheeler's work, farm buildings are painted with the same hard-edged, geometric precision he used to depict factories and machines (Fig. 3).

While always drawn to architectural motifs, O’Keeffe felt a deeply personal connection to the barn in particular. Born and raised on a farm in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, she once articulated that “The barn is a very healthy part of me—there should be more of it—It is something that I know too—it is my childhood—I seem to be one of the few people I know of to have no complaints against my first twelve years” (Sarah Whitaker Peters, Becoming O’Keeffe: The Early Years, New York, 1991, p. 281). O’Keeffe explored a less exacting precisionist style to varying degrees in paintings such as Lake George Barn. Although O’Keeffe’s distillation of forms to their simplest line and shape speaks to her precisionist inclinations, she continues to render them expressively, and her painterly application of pigment imbues the scene with a subtle sense of organic vitality. Unlike her precisionist colleagues, however, O’Keeffe does not divorce the manmade from the natural but instead embeds the structures into the land that surrounds them, suggesting her vision of the barn as integral to the natural cycle of growth and harvest.