Autumn Trees – The Maple by Georgia O’Keeffe
This is part of the Modern Nature exhibition at the De Young Museum and is one of O’Keeffe’s many Lake George paintings. The time she spent at Lake George and the work she did there is often seen as separate from her more famous desert landscapes and close up flower paintings. However, in this fantastic lecture by Erin Coe, chief curator of the Hyde Collection, Coe suggests that O’Keeffe’s time at Lake George isn’t a separate period, but rather a place that O’Keeffe returns to throughout her lifetime and whose influence can bee seen throughout her career.
According to Coe, Lake George is where O’Keeffe created her first botanicals and it’s where she “found her balance between abstraction and nature.” It’s the place where the O’Keeffe we know today was formed.
Coe notes that trees are one of the most underrated subjects in O’Keeffe’s body of work even though they are the most enduring of all her subjects. With over 31 canvases of trees O’Keeffe repeatedly returns to this subject over the course of seven decades.
O’Keeffe is quoted as saying, “If only people were trees, I might like them better.”
On a personal level, I’m drawn to O’Keeffe’s color selection and the contrast she achieves through her use of tertiary colors offset by grayer tones. There’s a feeling of both unity through color harmony and fragmentation through her division of the surface.
Though this lecture is an hour long, it’s absolutely worth listening to if you are an admirer of O’Keeffe: