Lot 13
  • 13

Georgia O'Keeffe 1887 - 1986

500,000 - 700,000 USD
634,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Georgia O'Keeffe
  • Black Patio Door–Small
  • oil on canvas


The Downtown Gallery, New York
Doris Bry, New York
Private Collection, New York, 1969
Grete Meilman Fine Art, New York, circa 1990
Peter Blum Gallery, New York
Kippy Stroud, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 2004 (acquired from the above; sold: Sotheby's, New York, May 24, 2006, lot 140, illustrated)
Acquired by the present owner at the above sale (through Aaron Payne Fine Art)


Zurich, Switzerland, Kunsthaus Zurich, Ausstellung Georgia O'Keeffe, October-February 2004
Rome, Italy, Fondazione Roma Museo; Munich, Germany, Kunsthalle der Hypo-Kulturstiftung; Helsinki, Finland, Helsinki Art Museum, Georgia O'Keeffe: Life and Work, October 2011-September 2012


Barbara Buhler Lynes, Georgia O'Keeffe: Catalogue Raisonné, Washington, D.C., 1999, vol. II, no. 1281, p. 806, illustrated

Catalogue Note

Painted in 1955, Black Patio Door–Small is one of several works Georgia O’Keeffe derived from the architectural features of her home in Abiquiu, New Mexico. O'Keeffe  began to visit New Mexico annually in 1929. The stark simplicity and expansiveness of the desert landscape and architecture strongly appealed to her artistic sensibilities, and her visits proved transformative both personally and artistically. “When I got to New Mexico that was mine,” she later articulated of how the environment captured her imagination. “As soon as I saw it that was my country. I’d never seen anything like it before, but it fitted me exactly. It’s something that’s in the air, it’s different. The sky is different, the wind is different” (Perry Miller Adato, Georgia O’Keeffe, film).

O’Keeffe returned to New Mexico every summer thereafter until settling there permanently in 1949 after the death of her husband, Alfred Stieglitz, the prior year. She purchased a home in Abiquiu–approximately 50 miles from Taos–in 1946, and the following year began a series of paintings based on the patio door of the adobe-style house (Fig. 1). O’Keeffe often created a series of paintings on a single theme, examining and reworking her subjects, and she continued to explore this view of the patio through 1960, including in two versions now in the collections of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and the Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth, Texas. “When I first saw the Abiquiu house,” she later said of her first encounter with this motif, “it was a ruin with an adobe wall around the garden broken in a couple of places by falling trees. As I climbed and walked about in the ruin I found a patio with a very pretty well house and bucket to draw up water. It was a good-sized patio with a long wall with a door on one side. That wall with a door was something I had to have. It took me ten years to get it–three more years to fix the house so I could live in it–and after that the wall with a door was painted many times” (Georgia O’Keeffe, New York, 1976, n.p.).

O’Keeffe’s interpretation of the subject in Black Patio Door–Small is strikingly minimal, composed of four crisply defined geometric areas of color. The door is simplified to a slender black rectangle set against a sand-colored wall, while a vertical strip at the right suggests the three-dimensionality of the patio. She closely crops the composition, eliminating the foreground entirely and including only a small area of blue sky in the upper left corner. This pictorial structure is reminiscent of the photography of modernists like Stieglitz and Paul Strand, and her disregard for traditional scale and spatial depth contributes to a sense of flattened patterning that can also be read as abstract fields of color.

Though she was interested in abstraction from the earliest years of her career, after 1923 O’Keeffe predominantly turned to representational subjects–an inclination most famously manifested through her monumental images of plants and flowers. By the mid-1950s, however, she once again began to focus on abstract imagery, increasingly removing extraneous detail, and ultimately capturing only the most essential shapes and forms of the scene before her. Her growing preoccupation with pure abstraction finds similarities with artists such as Ellsworth Kelly, who was concurrently exploring the abstract qualities inherent to representational imagery (Fig. 2). “It is surprising to me to see how many people separate the objective from the abstract,” she once explained of her intent. “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. The abstraction is often the most definite form for the intangible thing in myself that I can only clarify” (Barbara Haskell, Georgia O’Keeffe: Abstraction, New York, 2009, p. 166).