ProvenanceRuth S. Schaffner Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
Robert Miller Gallery, New York, New York
Harold Diamond, New York, New York (Purchase), 1977
Private Collection, 1977 to present
ExhibitionGeorgia O’Keeffe: Paintings and Watercolors, John Berggruen Gallery, San Francisco, CA, September 7- October 15, 1977 (Number 8)
Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe, New Mexico, March 1997
LiteratureBarbara Lynes, Georgia O’Keeffe: Catalogue Raisonne, Vol. 1, New Haven 1999, No. 274, p 147, illustrated
When Georgia O’Keeffe’s “Jimson Weed/White Flower No. 1” sold for $44.4 million USD in 2014, she became the most expensive female artist at auction. Among the most significant and influential of any American artist, O’Keeffe’s vision of flowers and the American Southwest shaped modernism, and our views of our ourselves. Her paintings simplify objects and lands to layered geometries while bringing new complexities to their meaning. Born in 1887, O’Keeffe made a big splash in New York in the avant-garde circles that included her future husband, Alfred Stieglitz, whom she met in 1916 shortly before painting “Canna Lily.” Her sojourn to New Mexico would have a profound effect on her and she would eventually settle in the area making the town of Taos an artistic mecca, attracting future painters like Agnes Martin (see our virtual room for Agnes Martin’s “Untitled #11” for more information).
Executed in 1918-1920, “Canna Lily” is from an early series of paintings, the start of Georgia O’Keeffe’s interest with flowers. It is one of the first series of floral still-life paintings that O’Keeffe ever created. For her, flowers were the perfect vehicle in which to explore modernism veering from semi-abstraction to realism, whether cropped close-up or depicting the entire flower. The Canna Lily series contains all of these hallmarks, and this watercolor in particular shows the artist’s deftness straddling abstraction and realism in its full presentation of the flower. Canna lilies, and flowers in general, hold O’Keeffe’s deeply personal vision of the world as expressed through, with, and in nature. Although she would be identified with the American Southwest, O’Keeffe painted this work in Lake George in upstate New York. The area would creep into her works through her use of autumnal, warm colors as seen in this painting. Several of these Canna Lily paintings are held by public institutions including Yale University Art Gallery.
Georgia O’Keeffe, portrait photograph by Alfred Stieglitz, 1918
Georgia O’Keeffe, Red Canna, watercolor, 19 3/8 x 13 in., 1915, Yale University Art Gallery
Georgia O’Keeffe, Inside Red Canna, oil on canvas, 22 x 17 in., 1919, Private Collection
Georgia O’Keeffe, Abstraction, Seaweed, and Water – Maine, pastel on paper, 28 3/8 x 17 ¾ in., 1920, Georgia O’Keeffe Museum
Andy Warhol, Georgia O’Keeffe, Polaroid, 4 ½ x 3 ½ in., 1980
Top Results at Auction
Comparable Paintings Sold at Auction
- Comparable early year, though a few years after the formative period when O’Keeffe painted Canna Lily
- Sold for over $4.4 million USD four years ago, demonstrating the strong demand for early, smaller-scale flower works
- Similar format to Canna Lily as the composition depicts the full flower with no additional visual elements, though this piece represents a style closer to realism near the height of her career
- Sold for over $3.2 million USD nearly ten years ago – as the market for O’Keeffe works has grown, this piece would likely command a much higher price if sold today
- From the same early period as Canna Lily and of the same medium, with even more abstracted subject matter
- Sold for over $3 million USD nearly fifteen years ago, and the O’Keeffe market has grown
- Comparable early work on paper, though smaller
- Both Calla Lilies and Canna Lilies were among O’Keeffe’s favorite flowers to depict
- Sold for over $1.2 million USD in 2013, and since that date, few works on paper of comparable quality have come up for sale at auction
Paintings in Museum Collections
This early drawing demonstrates O’Keeffe’s affinity for works on paper and shows her working with organic forms – an early prototype of her blend of realism and abstraction in the colorful flower watercolors and works on paper to come.
This experimental watercolor further exemplifies how O’Keeffe would abstract flowers and organic forms. It is a smaller, more abstract, example housed in a major museum collection.
An earlier and smaller example, “Train at Night in the Desert” shows the spontaneous nature of the artist while working in the watercolor medium.
“Evening Star No. 5” showcases O’Keeffe’s command of subtle abstraction and the elegant brushwork of watercolor, qualities also on display in Canna Lily.