GEORGIA O'KEEFFE (1887-1986)
ProvenanceAn American Place, New York
Mr. and Mrs. Max Ascoli, New York, 1944
Descended in family
Harold Diamond, New York, c. 1975
Gerald Peters Gallery, Santa Fe, New Mexico
Elaine Horwich Gallery, Scottsdale, Arizona, 1978
Collection of Mr. and Mrs. E. Parry Thomas, Las Vegas, Nevada, 1978
Private Collection, United States
ExhibitionNew York, New York, An American Place, Georgia O’Keeffe, Paintings – 1943, January 11 – March 11, 1944, no. 8
LiteratureLynes, Barbara Buhler, Georgia O’Keeffe, Catalogue Raisonné Volum...More...e Two (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1999), cat. no. 1066, p. 670.
Cottonwood Tree (Near Abiquiu), New Mexico (1943) by celebrated American artist Georgia O’Keeffe is exemplary of the airier, more naturalistic style that the desert inspired in her. O’Keeffe had great affinity for the distinctive beauty of the Southwest, and made her home there among the spindly trees, dramatic vistas, and bleached animal skulls that she so frequently painted. O’Keeffe took up residence at Ghost Ranch, a dude ranch twelve miles outside of the village of Abiquiú in northern New Mexico and painted this cottonwood tree around there. The softer style befitting this subject is a departure from her bold architectural landscapes and jewel-toned flowers.
The cottonwood tree is abstracted into soft patches of verdant greens through which more delineated branches are seen, spiraling in space against pockets of blue sky. The modeling of the trunk and delicate energy in the leaves carry forward past experimentations with the regional trees of the Northeast that had captivated O’Keeffe years earlier: maples, chestnuts, cedars, and poplars, among others. Two dramatic canvases from 1924, Autumn Trees, The Maple and The Chestnut Grey, are early instances of lyrical and resolute centrality, respectively. As seen in these early tree paintings, O’Keeffe exaggerated the sensibility of her subject with color and form.
In her 1974 book, O’Keeffe explained: “The meaning of a word— to me— is not as exact as the meaning of a color. Color and shapes make a more definite statement than words.” Her exacting, expressive color intrigued. The Precisionist painter Charles Demuth described how, in O’Keeffe’s work, “each color almost regains the fun it must have felt within itself on forming the first rainbow” (As quoted in C. Eldridge, Georgia O’Keeffe, New York, 1991, p. 33). As well, congruities between forms knit together her oeuvre. Subjects like hills and petals undulate alike, while antlers, trees, and tributaries correspond in their branching morphology.
The sinewy contours and gradated hues characteristic of O’Keeffe find an incredible range across decades of her tree paintings. In New Mexico, O’Keeffe returned to the cottonwood motif many times, and the seasonality of this desert tree inspired many forms. The vernal thrill of new growth was channeled into spiraling compositions like Spring Tree No.1 (1945). Then, cottonwood trees turned a vivid autumnal yellow provided a breathtaking compliment to the blue backdrop of Mount Pedernal. The ossified curves of Dead Cottonweed Tree (1943) contain dramatic pools of light and dark, providing a foil to the warm, breathing quality of this painting, Cottonwood Tree (Near Abiquiu). The aural quality of this feathered cottonwood compels a feeling guided by O’Keeffe’s use of form of color.
Georgia O’Keeffe painting a similar subject at Ghost Ranch, New MexicoPhotograph by Ansel Adams
Georgia O’Keeffe, 1953, at her desk in her Abiquiu studio with one of her smaller cottonwood paintingsPhotograph by Laura Gilpin
"Dead Cottonwood Tree" (1943)Santa Barbara Museum of Art
"Autumn Trees, The Maple" (1924)
"The Chestnut Grey" (1924)
The graph by Art Market Research shows that since 1976, paintings by O’Keeffe have increased at an 11.6% annual rate of return.
Since the Record setting sale in 2014 (Jimson Weed/White Flower No. 1, sold for over $44.4 million), the Georgia O’Keeffe market has seen an ever-increasing demand for signature-style oil paintings.
Even when O’Keeffe’s market took a slight downturn during the pandemic in 2020 (as seen in the AMR graph), ArtPrice’s global index of auction turnover shows that O’Keeffe increased from 263rd to the 63rd highest sold artist that year, illustrating that O’Keeffe’s paintings remain in increasing demand, especially when compared to other artists’ performance during this same time.
Top Results at Auction
“Jimson weed/ White flower no. 1” (1932) sold for $44,405,000.
“White Rose with Larkspur No. I” (1927) sold for $26,725,000.
“Autumn Leaf II” (1927) sold for $15,275,000.
“A Street” (1926) sold for $13,285,500.
Comparable Paintings Sold at Auction
“Red Hills with Pedernal, White Clouds” (1936) sold for $12,298,000.
- A wider view of the desert landscape, this painting was sold in the auction of Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s collection
- Nature was often the subject of O’Keeffe’s art, and some cottonwood trees can be seen in the distance of this landscape
“Lake George With White Birch” (1921) sold for $11,292,000.
- This early canvas with similar subject matter, though smaller-scale, sold for over $11.2 million in 2018, the third-highest auction price for O’Keeffe
- Nature subjects, particularly trees, were a frequent focus of O’Keeffe
“Near Abiquiu, New Mexico” (1931) sold for $8,412,500.
- A smaller work than Cottonwood Tree (Near Abiquiu), New Mexico
- An earlier landscape from the same area in New Mexico, this piece sold for over $8.4 million in 2018
“The Red Maple at Lake George” (1926) sold for $8,187,500.
- This O’Keeffe nature subject of the same size sold in 2018 for over $8.18 million
- Earlier example from 1926
“Nature Forms – Gaspé” (1931) sold for $6,870,200.
- Small-scale, abstract nature subject
- Sold recently for over $6.87 million
43% of O’Keeffe’s paintings are already held in museum collections.
Of the 716 oil on canvas works O’Keeffe painted, less than 300 remain available for private collections.
As time goes on, many of the O’Keeffe paintings currently in private collections will be bequeathed to museums, leaving very few to ever become available.
- O’Keeffe first painted the cottonwood trees in Abiquiu for two only years, from 1943 to 1945, and only created a small handful of paintings for this core series. Many works from this Cottonwood Tree series are now in museums like the Butler Institute of American Art and the Brooklyn Museum.
Paintings of Cottonwoods, Trees, and Abiquiu in Museum Collections
Cottonwood Tree (Near Abiquiu), New Mexico, 1943 is listed as number 1066 in Barbara Buhler Lynes’s catalogue raisonné of Georgia O’Keeffe’s artwork. The painting is illustrated on page 670 of volume two.
See Catalogue Raisonné
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