GEORGIA O'KEEFFE | ANTHURIUM
1887 - 1986
oil on canvas
20 ½ by 16 ⅜ inches
(52.1 by 41.6 cm)
Painted in 1923.
[with]Doris Bry, New York
Private collection, New York, 1973
[with]Doris Bry, New York
Private collection, New York, 1970s
Martin Diamond, New York, 1977
John Berggruen Gallery, San Francisco, California, 1977
Coe Kerr Gallery, New York, 1978
Coe Kerr Gallery, New York, and Larry Shar, New York, 1979
[with]Judy Goffman, New York
[with]Peacock Galleries, Scottsdale, Arizona
Gerald Peters Gallery, Santa Fe, New Mexico, 1981
Private collection, Santa Fe, New Mexico, 1982
[with]Newspace, Los Angeles, California
The Rowe Company, Inc., Chicago, Illinois
Private collection, New York, 1983 (acquired from the above)
By descent to the present owner
Barbara Buhler Lynes, Georgia O'Keeffe: Catalogue Raisonné, vol. I, New Haven, Connecticut, 1999, no. 422, pp. 228, 253, illustrated p. 228
Throughout her career, Georgia O’Keeffe chose physical objects from nature – trees, flowers, leaves, animal bones, mountains – as subject matter for her work. Painted in 1923, Anthurium not only illustrates her deep admiration of the natural world, but also reveals her intent to distill abstract patterns from these organic sources. Reflecting the formal vocabulary O’Keeffe developed as an avant-garde American artist in the early decades of the 20th century, Anthurium masterfully exemplifies the deeply personal synthesis of realism and abstraction that pervades the entirety of her celebrated oeuvre.
In the present work, O’Keeffe skillfully renders the heart-shaped flower’s waxy texture and creates sharply delineated contours with her assured brushstrokes. She utilizes vibrant hues of red and green to imbue the composition with a sense of vitality and dynamism. By reducing extraneous details, O’Keeffe emphasizes the natural beauty of the flower and compels her viewer to consider a representational object not for its function but rather purely for its formal qualities—its distinctive color, line and shape—that might otherwise be overlooked in everyday life. As such, Anthurium simultaneously becomes both an interpretation of a flower as well as a reflection on the union between color and form.
O’Keeffe’s flower paintings of the 1920s, which began with works like Anthurium, are among the most innovative contributions to early 20th century American art and to the ongoing discourse of modernism later in the period. Indeed, in his 1987 photograph of the same title, Chuck Close examines the anthurium in a similar manner, isolating it from its surroundings and emphasizing the simple elegance of the flower’s form (Fig. 1). As Elizabeth Glassman observes, "Her art does not represent an age gone by, but rather, the brilliance of an American painter whose intuitions remain as provocative today as they were when her work was exhibited by Alfred Stieglitz on the walls of 291" (Georgia O'Keeffe: American and Modern, New Haven, Connecticut, 1993, p. 11). The present work was discovered on the verso of another canvas and separated in 1979. The verso work, Autumn Leaves – Lake George, N.Y. (Fig. 2), belongs to the collection of the Columbus Museum of Art, Columbus, Ohio.