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GEORGIA O'KEEFFE (1887-1986)

 
GEORGIA O'KEEFFE - Cottonwood Tree (Near Abiquiu), New Mexico - oil on canvas - 36 x 30 in. GEORGIA O'KEEFFE - Cottonwood Tree (Near Abiquiu), New Mexico - oil on canvas - 36 x 30 in. GEORGIA O'KEEFFE - Cottonwood Tree (Near Abiquiu), New Mexico - oil on canvas - 36 x 30 in. GEORGIA O'KEEFFE - Cottonwood Tree (Near Abiquiu), New Mexico - oil on canvas - 36 x 30 in. GEORGIA O'KEEFFE - Cottonwood Tree (Near Abiquiu), New Mexico - oil on canvas - 36 x 30 in. GEORGIA O'KEEFFE - Cottonwood Tree (Near Abiquiu), New Mexico - oil on canvas - 36 x 30 in. GEORGIA O'KEEFFE - Cottonwood Tree (Near Abiquiu), New Mexico - oil on canvas - 36 x 30 in. GEORGIA O'KEEFFE - Cottonwood Tree (Near Abiquiu), New Mexico - oil on canvas - 36 x 30 in. GEORGIA O'KEEFFE - Cottonwood Tree (Near Abiquiu), New Mexico - oil on canvas - 36 x 30 in. GEORGIA O'KEEFFE - Cottonwood Tree (Near Abiquiu), New Mexico - oil on canvas - 36 x 30 in.
Cottonwood Tree (Near Abiquiu), New Mexico194336 x 30 in.(91.44 x 76.2 cm) oil on canvas
Provenance
An 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
Exhibition
New York, New York, An American Place, Georgia O’Keeffe, Paintings – 1943, January 11 – March 11, 1944, no. 8
Literature
Lynes, Barbara Buhler, Georgia O’Keeffe, Catalogue Raisonné Volum...More...e Two (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1999), cat. no. 1066, p. 670.
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“I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way – things I had no words for.” -Georgia O’Keeffe

History

Cottonwood Tree (Near Abiquiu), New Mexico (1943) by celebrated American artist Georgia O’Keeffe is exemplary of the airer, 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.

More
  • O'Keeffe40147_history1
    Georgia O’Keeffe painting a similar subject at Ghost Ranch, New Mexico, photograph by Ansel Adams
  • O'Keeffe40147_history2
    Georgia O’Keeffe, 1953, at her desk in her Abiquiu studio with one of her smaller cottonwood paintings, photograph by Laura Gilpin
  • O'Keeffe40147_history3
    Dead Cottonwood Tree (1943) at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art
  • O'Keeffe40147_history4
    Autumn Trees, The Maple (1924)
  • O'Keeffe40147_history5
    The Chestnut Grey (1924)
“A hill or tree cannot make a good painting just because it is a hill or a tree. It is lines and colors put together so that they say something. For me that is the very basis of painting. The abstraction is often the most definite form for the intangible thing in myself that I can only clarify in paint.” -Georgia O’Keeffe

MARKET INSIGHTS

  • O'Keeffe AMR Graph
  • Price Index O'Keeffe
  • 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

Oil on canvas, 48 x 40 in. Sold at Sotheby’s New York: 20 November 2014.

“Jimson weed/ White flower no. 1” (1932) sold for $44,405,000.

Oil on canvas, 48 x 40 in. Sold at Sotheby’s New York: 20 November 2014.
Oil on canvas, 48 x 30 in. Sold at Sotheby’s New York: 14 November 2018.

“A Street” (1926) sold for $13,285,500.

Oil on canvas, 48 x 30 in. Sold at Sotheby’s New York: 14 November 2018.
Oil on canvas, 58 x 34 in. Sold at Christie’s New York: 19 May 2016.

“Lake George Reflection” (circa 1921-1922) sold for $12,933,000.

Oil on canvas, 58 x 34 in. Sold at Christie’s New York: 19 May 2016.
Oil on canvas, 25 1/2 x 21 in. Sold at Sotheby’s New York: 14 May 2018.

“Lake George With White Birch” (1921) sold for $11,292,000.

Oil on canvas, 25 1/2 x 21 in. Sold at Sotheby’s New York: 14 May 2018.

Comparable Paintings Sold at Auction

Oil on canvas, 25 1/2 x 21 in. (64.7 x 54 cm). Sold at Sotheby’s New York: 14 May 2018.

“Lake George With White Birch” (1921) sold for $11,292,000.

Oil on canvas, 25 1/2 x 21 in. (64.7 x 54 cm). Sold at Sotheby’s New York: 14 May 2018.
  • 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
Oil on canvas, 16 x 36 in. (40.6 x 91.4 cm). Sold at Christie’s New York: 09 May 2018.

“Near Abiquiu, New Mexico” (1931) sold for $8,412,500.

Oil on canvas, 16 x 36 in. (40.6 x 91.4 cm). Sold at Christie’s New York: 09 May 2018.
  • 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
Oil on canvas, 36 x 30 in. (91.4 x 76.2 cm). Sold at Christie’s New York: 20 November 2018.

“The Red Maple at Lake George” (1926) sold for $8,187,500.

Oil on canvas, 36 x 30 in. (91.4 x 76.2 cm). Sold at Christie’s New York: 20 November 2018.
  • This O’Keeffe nature subject of the same size sold in 2018 for over $8.18 million
  • Earlier example from 1926
Oil on canvas, 10.1 x 24 in. (25.7 x 61 cm). Sold at Sotheby’s New York: 5 March 2020.

“Nature Forms – Gaspé” (1931) sold for $6,870,200.

Oil on canvas, 10.1 x 24 in. (25.7 x 61 cm). Sold at Sotheby’s New York: 5 March 2020.
  • Small-scale, abstract nature subject
  • Sold recently for over $6.87 million
Oil on canvas, 12 x 10 in. (30.5 x 25.4 cm). Sold at Sotheby’s New York: 16 November 2021.

“Pink Spotted Lily” (1936) sold for $6,813,300.

Oil on canvas, 12 x 10 in. (30.5 x 25.4 cm). Sold at Sotheby’s New York: 16 November 2021.
  • This small, 12 x 10-inch painting sold for over $6.8 million in November
  • A strong result for an intimately scaled piece, an indication of the demand for O’Keeffe paintings with signature subject matter

SCARCITY

  • O'Keeffe Scarcity
  • 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 in Museum Collections

Santa Barbara Museum of Art, California

“Dead Cottonwood Tree” (1943), oil on canvas, 36 x 30 in.

The Butler Institute of American Art, Ohio

“Cottonwood III” (1944), oil on canvas, 20 x 30 in.

New Mexico Museum of Art, Santa Fe

“Spring Tree No. 1” (1945), oil on canvas, 30 x 36 in.

Brooklyn Museum, New York

“Dark Tree Trunks” (1946), oil on canvas, 40 x 30 in.
“Filling a space in a beautiful way – that is what art means to me.” -Georgia O’Keeffe

Image Gallery

Additional Resources

Take a video tour of O’Keeffe’s home in Abiquiu, New Mexico, presented by the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe
Watch “Houses of My Own” by the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum to learn more about the inspirational Abiquiu landscape and its cottonwood trees
Explore more of O’Keeffe’s cottonwood series in the collection of the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum

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