“To see takes time,” Georgia O’Keeffe once wrote. Best known for her flower paintings, O’Keeffe (1887-1986) also made extraordinary series of works in charcoal, pencil, watercolor, and pastel. Reuniting works on paper that are often seen individually, along with key paintings, this exhibition offers a rare glimpse of the artist’s working methods and invites us to take time to look.
Over her long career, O’Keeffe revisited and reworked the same subjects, developing, repeating, and transforming motifs that lie between observation and abstraction. Between 1915 and 1918, a breakthrough period of experimentation, she made as many works on paper as she would during the next four decades, producing progressions of bold lines, organic landscapes, and frank nudes, as well as the radically abstract charcoals she called “specials.”
Even as she turned increasingly to painting, important series—including flowers in the 1930s, portraits in the ’40s, and aerial views in the ’50s—reaffirmed her commitment to working on paper. Drawing in this way enabled O’Keeffe to capture not only nature’s forms but its rhythms: tracing the sun’s spiraling descent in vividly hued pigment, or committing to velvety black the shifting perspective as seen from an airplane window.
The exhibition is organized by Samantha Friedman, Associate Curator, Department of Drawings and Prints, with Laura Neufeld, Associate Paper Conservator, The David Booth Conservation Department, and Emily Olek, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Drawings and Prints. Special thanks to the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum.