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Georgia O'Keeffe

Born: 1887, Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, United States of America
Died: 1986, Santa Fe, New Mexico, United States of America

Red Amaryllis
1937

Oil on canvas
Overall: 12 x 10 1/8in. (30.5 x 25.7cm)
Frame: 13 1/4 × 11 3/8 × 2 1/4in. (33.7 × 28.9 × 5.7cm)
Terra Foundation for American Art, Gift of Mrs. Henrietta Roig, C1984.1
Signed: Unsigned
Artist Name: []

Interpretation

Georgia O’Keeffe’s Red Amaryllis is a close-up view of a single blossom on a stalk, vibrant in its blood-red color tints, against an undefined yellow and white background that suggests brilliant sunlight. The image is typical of O’Keeffe’s many flower paintings in its juxtaposition of softly modulated surfaces that indicate the velvet texture of the curving petals and sharp edges between fields of strong contrasting color. The viewer is drawn into the vortex-like center of the enlarged blossom, where delicate yellow stamens echo the golden border of the image. The intimate scale of this work, a format O’Keeffe used often in picturing single natural objects such as flowers and shells, invites the beholder’s close physical proximity to the painting, thereby closing the distance between viewer and object. O’Keeffe’s amaryllis is equally majestic and mysterious, rendered with scientific detachment yet subtly erotic in its evocation of nature’s relentless fecundity.

From the beginning of her career in the late 1910s, O’Keeffe had been drawn to the floral still life. Treasured for their fragile beauty, flowers had long been thought the proper subject for female artistry; indeed, O’Keeffe may have been inspired to become an artist by her grandmothers, both amateur flower painters. In her early works, painted at the beginning of her relationship with gallery owner Alfred Stieglitz (1864–1946), whom she married in 1924, O’Keeffe used flowers as vehicles for abstraction, creating compositions that evoke rather than represent their ruffled petal edges and inner recesses as the entrance to a secret world of nature. Contemporaries insisted on O’Keeffe’s flowers as inevitable expressions of the artist’s own feminine sexuality, an interpretation she rejected as she repudiated contemporary notions that a woman’s experience and therefore her art were enslaved to her sexuality and reproductive life. Partly in reaction, in the mid-1920s she began to paint her flowers in a more recognizable, “objective” manner. As Red Amaryllis suggests, however, even these more naturalistic works retain an unmistakable, even confrontational sensuality, partly the effect of the magnified presentation that gives a single blossom monumental presence even on the scale of this small painting.

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Provenance

The artist
The Downtown Gallery, New York, New York
The Mayo Hill Galleries, Inc., Delray Beach, Florida
Mrs. Henrietta Roig, Winnetka, Illinois, 1953
Terra Foundation for the Arts Collection, Chicago, Illinois, 1984 (gift of Mrs. Henrietta Roig, Winnetka, Illinois)

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Exhibition History

Georgia O'Keeffe: The 14th Annual Exhibition of Paintings with Some Recent O'Keeffe Letters, An American Place, New York, New York (organizer). Venue: An American Place, New York, New York, December 27, 1937–February 11, 1938, no. 2. [exh. cat.]

An Exhibition of Paintings by Georgia O'Keeffe, Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, Dallas, Texas, February 1–22, 1953; The Mayo Hill Galleries, Inc., Delray Beach, Florida, March 16–April 11, 1953, no. 29. [exh. cat.]

Extended loan, Vassar College Art Gallery, Poughkeepsie, New York, until 1984.

Collection Cameo, Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, July 1992.

Of, For, and By Georgia O'Keeffe, Whitney Museum of American Art at Champion, Stamford, Connecticut (organizer). Venue: Whitney Museum of American Art at Champion, Stamford, Connecticut, February 25–May 4, 1994. [exh. cat.]

Collection Cameo, Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, May 1999.

L'Amérique et les modernes, 1900–1950 (American Moderns, 1900–1950), Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France (organizer). Venues: Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France, July 25–October 31, 2000. [exh. cat.]

(Re)Presenting Women, Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois (organizer). Venues: Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, October 16, 2001–January 13, 2002.

D'une colonie à une collection: le Musée d'Art Américain Giverny fête ses dix ans (From a Colony to a Collection: Celebrating the Tenth Anniversary of the Musée d'Art Américain Giverny), Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France (organizer). Venues: Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France, March 30–June 16, 2002.

A Narrative of American Art, Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois (organizer). Venues: Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, February 13–October 31, 2004.

Manifest Destiny, Manifest Responsibility: Environmentalism and the Art of the American Landscape. Terra Foundation for American Art, Chicago, Illinois and Loyola University Museum of Art, Chicago, Illinois (organizers). Venue: Loyola University Museum of Art, May 17–August 10, 2008. [exh. cat.]

Georgia O'Keeffe et ses amis photographes (Georgia O'Keeffe and her photographer friends),, Musée de Grenoble, Grenoble, France (organizers). Venues: Musée de Grenoble, Grenoble, France, November 7, 2015–February 7, 2016. [exh. cat.]

Georgia O'Keeffe, Tate Modern, London, UK (organizer). Venue: Tate Modern, London, UK, July 6–October 30, 2016; Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Canada, April 22–July 30, 2017 (exhibited in Toronto, Canada only) [exh. cat.]

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Published References

Georgia O'Keeffe: The 14th Annual Exhibition of Paintings with Some Recent O'Keeffe Letters. (exh. cat., An American Place). New York, New York: An American Place, 1937. Text p. 12, cat. no. 2 (checklist).

An Exhibition of Paintings by Georgia O'Keeffe. (exh. cat., Dallas Museum of Fine Arts), Dallas, Texas: Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, 1953. Text p. 2, cat. no. 29 (checklist).

Callaway, Nicholas, ed. Georgia O’Keeffe, One Hundred Flowers. New York, New York: Knopf in association with Callaway edition, 1987. Ill. cat. no. 84 (color), checklist (black & white).

House and Garden 159 (May 1987). Text p. 60.

Frazier, Nancy. Georgia O'Keeffe. New York: Crescent Books, 1990. Ill. p. 39 (color).

Southgate, M. Therese. "The Cover." The Journal of the American Medical Association 267, no. 17 (April 8, 1992): 1900. Text p. 1900; ill. cover (color).

Red Amaryllis, Georgia O'Keeffe. Collection Cameo sheet, Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, July 1992. Ill. (black & white).

Southgate, M. Therese. "The Cover." The Journal of the American Medical Association India 11, no. 5 (August 1992): 428. Text p. 428; ill. cover (color).

The Journal of the American Medical Association Pakistan 4, no. 11 (January 1993): cover. Ill. cover (color).

Southgate, M. Therese. "The Cover." The Journal of the American Medical Association Middle East (June 1993): 14. Text p. 14; ill. cover (color).

Costantino, Maria. Georgia O'Keeffe. London, England: Bison Books, Ltd., 1994. Ill. cover (color), p. 114 (color).

Monaghan, Kathleen. Of, For, and By Georgia O'Keeffe. (exh. cat. Whitney Museum of American Art at Champion). New York: Whitney Museum of American Art, 1994. Text p. 15 (checklist).

Dech, Jula. Georgia O'Keeffe: Gemälde. Munich, Germany: Schirmer/Mosel Verlag, 1995. Ill. pl. 20 (color).

Lynes, Barbara Buhler. Georgia O'Keeffe: Catalog Raisonné. 2 Vols. New Haven, Connecticut and London, England: Yale University Press in association with the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., and The Georgia O'Keeffe Foundation, Abiquiu, New Mexico, 1999. Text p. 753, cat. no. 921; ill. p. 753, cat. no. 921 (color).

Red Amaryllis, Georgia O'Keeffe. Collection Cameo sheet, Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, May 1999. Ill. (black & white).

Cartwright, Derrick R. and Paul J. Karlstrom. American Moderns, 1900–1950. (exh. cat., Musée d'Art Américain Giverny). Chicago, Illinois: Terra Foundation for the Arts, 2000. Ill. p. 53, pl. 25 (color).

Cartwright, Derrick R. and Paul J. Karlstrom. L'Amérique et les modernes, 1900–1950. (exh. cat., Musée d'Art Américain Giverny). Chicago, Illinois: Terra Foundation for the Arts, 2000. Ill. p. 53, pl. 25 (color).

Bourguignon, Katherine M. and Elizabeth Kennedy. An American Point of View: The Daniel J. Terra Collection. Chicago, Illinois: Terra Foundation for the Arts, 2002. Ill. p. 160 (black & white).

Bourguignon, Katherine M. and Elizabeth Kennedy. Un regard transatlantique. La collection d'art américain de Daniel J. Terra. Chicago, Illinois: Terra Foundation for the Arts, 2002. Ill. p. 160 (black & white).

Harris, Neil et al. L'art américain: Identités d'une nation. Edited by Veerle Thielemans et Matthias Waschek. Giverny: Musée d'Art Américain Giverny; Paris: Musée du Louvre, 2005. Ill. p. 179, back cover (color).

Davidson Susan, ed. Art in America: 300 years of Innovation. (exh. cat., National Museum of China, Beijing; Shanghai Museum). New York: Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation; Chicago: Terra Foundation for American Art, 2007. Text p. 206, 350 (checklist); ill. p. 207, fig. 88 (color).

Brownlee, Peter John. Manifest Destiny / Manifest Responsibility: Environmentalism and the Art of the American Landscape. (exh. cat., Loyola University Museum of Art, Chicago, Illinois). Chicago, Illinois: Terra Foundation for American Art and Loyola University Museum of Art, 2008. Text p. 37 (checklist).

Southgate, M. Therese. The Art of JAMA III: Covers and Essays from the Journal of the American Medical Association. Chicago, Illinois: American Medical Association, 2011. Text p. 90; ill. opposite p. 90 (color).

Bernard, Sophie, et al. Georgia O’Keeffe et ses amis photographes. (exh. cat. Musée de Grenoble, France). Grenoble, France: Musée de Grenoble; Paris: Somogy éditions d’art, 2015. Text p. 198 (checklist); ill. p. 97, cat. no. 23 (color, credit listed as Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago).

“Profile: Georgia O’Keeffe and Her Flower Paintings.” TIME: 100 American Originals, The Things That Shaped Our Culture (June 24, 2016): 83. Text p. 95; ill. p. 83 (color).

Barson, Tanya, ed. Georgia O’Keeffe. London: Tate Publishing, 2016. Ill. p. 124, fig. 114 (color).

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