Monday, November 17, 2014

Georgia O’Keeffe at Auction


In her life and art, Georgia O'Keeffe was a pioneer of American modernism. Born in Wisconsin, she began her art studies at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1905 at the age of eighteen. She moved to New York two years later to attend the Art Students League. She initially saw the work of European modernists in New York at Alfred Stieglitz' gallery 291. After working for a few years as a commercial artist in Chicago, in 1910 she went to Charlottesville, Virginia, where her family had moved, and took courses in drawing at the University of Virginia. For the next eight years O'Keeffe combined studies of art and art education with teaching art, traveling, and developing her own style.

In 1916 some of her drawings were shown to Alfred Stieglitz, who recognized her significant talent and exhibited a group of her spare charcoal abstractions at 291 the following year. Moving back to New York in 1918, O'Keeffe became a part of the group of progressive artists--Charles Demuth, Arthur Dove, John Marin, and Marsden Hartley--who had gathered around Stieglitz and his gallery. In 1924 O'Keeffe married Stieglitz, and she divided her time throughout the 1920s between New York City and the country home of the Stieglitz family at Lake George in upstate New York.

During her long career, O'Keeffe's subjects ranged from cityscapes to abstractions and figure studies, landscapes, and her well-known flower paintings. In 1929 she spent part of a summer in New Mexico for the first time, a habit she maintained until she moved there permanently in 1949, following the death of her husband three years earlier.

The American Southwest proved a particularly fertile source for many of O'Keeffe's works. Vast wide-open spaces provided direct experience with forms and the effects of nature she boldly recorded in her works. Her bold, simple, vivid images seem to suspend time by capturing a fleeting moment and rendering it in solid, monumental form.

Sotheby's 2017

Georgia O’Keeffe was inspired by imagery of the American Southwest for much of her career. Painted in 1941, Turkey Feathers and Indian Pot demonstrates the appeal that the indigenous culture of the region held for the artist, in addition to its stark and expansive landscape (estimate $1/1.5 million). O’Keeffe’s disregard for traditional scale and spatial depth here results in a modern interpretation of still-life, and displays the synthesis of realism and abstraction that has become her signature aesthetic.

Christie’s  American Art November 22, 2016

Georgia O'Keeffe (1887-1986)

Sand Hill, Alcalde

Estimate USD 1,200,000 - USD 1,800,000

Sotheby’s American Art 20 May 2015

The sale is highlighted by White Calla Lily, an iconic flower painting by Georgia  O’Keeffe that the artist kept in her own collection until her death in  1986, and which has remained in the same private collection for more  than two decades. 


Following the sale of Georgia O’Keeffe’s  

 Jimson Weed/White Flower No. 1 for $44.4 million at  Sotheby’s New York in November 2014 – 

more than three times the previous auction record for any  work by a female artist – the May sale is led by another iconic flower painting by the artist:  White  Calla Lily from 1927 (above, estimate $8–12 million).  Between 1918 and 1932 O’Keeffe executed  over 200 flower paintings, but it was arguably in the calla lily that the artist found her ideal motif, one  that provided the perfect synthesis of subject and form that now defines her most celebrated work.  The artist clearly held the present painting in high regard, as she kept it in her personal collection  until her death in 1986. In fact, the back of the painting features her star device, which she often  used to mark her favored pieces. White Calla Lily  was subsequently acquired by the present owner in 1994 from Gerald Peters Gallery in Santa Fe, New  Mexico, and has not been shown in public since.   

Christie’s 19 November 2014

            $2,500,000 - $3,500,000

Georgia O’Keefe’s Calla Lilies is one of eight sophisticated, architectural blooms in O’Keefe’s Calla Lily series. Calla Lilies reflects the pictorial strategies that O’Keeffe developed as an avant-garde American Modernist and her interest in a type of heightened realism that pushes an image to the edge of abstraction.  As with all of O’Keeffe’s work, Calla Lilies seamlessly combines sensuous beauty with underlying formalist concerns to create a psychologically compelling work that feels as contemporary today as when it was first painted.

GEORGIA O'KEEFFE (1887-1986)
            $2,500,000 - $3,500,000

Belonging to a seminal group of works depicting the red hills near O’Keeffe’s home at Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu, New Mexico, Hills and Mesa to the West is a superb example of the artist’s skillful use of color and light.  Painted in 1945, this painting is both an objective interpretation of a desert landscape and a meditation on form and color.  Composed of brilliant and varying hues, the work is also a testament to O’Keeffe’s passion for color and her unique ability to capture the dramatic and transitory hues of the Southwest at various times of the day.

                  $600,000 - $800,000

Sotheby's May 21, 2014

1887 - 1986

LOT SOLD. 2,965,000 

Christie’s 5 DECEMBER 2013  

Two works by Georgia O’Keeffe were among the highlights of the sale, both of which depict calla lilies, the flower with which the artist is most closely associated. 

Two Calla Lilies Together  (estimate: $800,000-1,200,000) is a pastel that was completed in a series of seven works in 1923, all of which depict this particular flower.  This example, however, is the only work from the series to depict two flowers and can be seen as the culmination of O’Keeffe’s first foray into the subject.   Two Calla Lilies Together is a strikingly beautiful study of line, color and the relation of forms in space that manifests O’Keeffe’s  utterly unique and bold aesthetic. 

The second work by O’Keeffe offered is entitled Two Calla Lilies (estimate: $600,000-800,000 Price Realized $1,865,000); the painting is an oil on board and was painted circa 1925-1926.  Both Two Calla Lilies Together and Two Calla Lilies have been in their current collections for decades, and have never been sold at auction previously.   

Christie’s 23 May 2013

My Backyard by Georgia O’Keeffe (estimate: $1,000,000-1,500,000) is a wonderful example of the New Mexican landscapes with which the artist has become so closely associated and is being sold to benefit the Foundation for Community Empowerment in Dallas Texas.   The work, which was painted in 1943 when O’Keeffe was frequently traveling to the Southwest, emphasizes the monumental and spiritual qualities of the region.  As with her finest works, the strength of My Backyard lies in its careful balance of realism and abstraction, its intricate layering of objective and subjective meaning, and its wonderful synthesis of form and color.

Sotheby's November 2012

Georgia O’Keeffe had the top two lots at Sotheby’s; both plant paintings, Autumn Leaf II (1927) sold for $4,282,500

and A White Camellia (1938) brought $3,218,500.

Christie’s 28 November 2012

O’Keeffe's Sun Water Maine (1922) was the second highest price at Christie’s at $2,210,500, exceeding the high estimate of $1,500,000.

While many Modernists in the 1920s turned to the industrial sector for inspiration, Georgia O’Keeffe embraced the spiritual power of nature.  Executed in 1922, Sun Water Maine is a fantastic and rare example of O’Keeffe’s early work that reinterprets the tradition of the American landscape. She returned to the sun motif throughout her career, having first been employed in her 1917 Evening Star series.  In Sun Water Maine, O’Keeffe displays her mastery of the pastel medium, creating a complex and visually striking surface as she varies the application and saturation of the pigments and juxtaposes rich surface with bare paper, heightening the effect of each. 

In addition to Sun Water Maine, Georgia O’Keeffe’s The Black Place III was offered from the Slick Family Collection (estimate: $1,500,000-2,500,000).  Executed in 1945, The Black Place III is a rare and impressive large-scale pastel that depicts the hilly terrain of New Mexico in a wonderful synthesis of form and color.

Christie’s  May 2013

  • Christie’s  16 May 2012

GEORGIA O'KEEFFE (1887-1986)


Estimate $300,000 - $500,000 Price Realized $902,500 

 Christie’s NOVEMBER 30, 2011

 Christie’s sale of American Paintings in New York NOVEMBER 30, 2011 boasted two tour-de-force paintings from the Collection by Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986).  Painted seven years apart, My Autumn, 1929 (;estimate: $2,000,000-3,000,000)

GEORGIA O'KEEFFE (1887-1986)


Estimate $2,000,000 - $3,000,000 Price Realized $2,770,500 

 and Black Iris, 1936 (estimate: $1,200,000-1,800,000) are exemplary of O’Keeffe’s highly personal and thoroughly modern aesthetic and of her sensual and evocative depictions of nature.  My Autumn captures the intensity of Adirondack fall colors and was painted in the pivotal year between a decade of summers and falls spent at the Stieglitz family compound in Lake George, N.Y., before the artist’s move to New Mexico.  The painting was displayed in her husband Alfred Stieglitz’s highly influential New York gallery, An American Place. Though both paintings are meditations on nature and color, Black Iris is from a later series O’Keeffe worked on during a period of intense focus on a type of heightened realism that approaches abstraction.  Most of the other paintings from this series are hanging in museum collections.


Estimate   500,000 — 700,000
Lot Sold   965,000

Estimate   450,000 — 650,000
Lot Sold   605,000

Christie’s  2015

                        GEORGIA O'KEEFFE (1887-1986)

                        GRAPES NO. 2

                                    GEORGIA O'KEEFFE (1887-1986)

                                    LEAVES UNDER WATER

                                    GEORGIA O'KEEFFE (1887-1986)

                                    SMALL LAVENDER AND GREY GREEN HILL

                                    GEORGIA O'KEEFFE (1887-1986)

                                    MISTY ROAD

                                    GEORGIA O'KEEFFE (1887-1986)
                                    BROOKLYN BRIDGE


                        GEORGIA O'KEEFFE (1887-1986)
                        ANTELOPE HORNS

                                    GEORGIA O'KEEFFE (1887-1986)
                                    DRAWING I

                                    GEORGIA O'KEEFFE (1887-1986)

                                    UNTITLED (BROOKLYN BRIDGE)

Christie’s  2012

Christie’s December 1, 2010

Georgia O'Keeffe, 
Canna Red and Orange, oil on canvas, Painted in 1926

Estimate $1,200,000 - $1,800,000 Price Realized $1,426,500 

Christie's 2009

Sotheby's May 19, 2010

1887 - 1986

LOT SOLD. 3,442,500 

Christie's  2007

                        GEORGIA O'KEEFFE (1887-1986)
                        ANOTHER PLACE NEAR ABIQUIU

                        GEORGIA O'KEEFFE (1887-1986)
                        IT WAS YELLOW & PINK I

                        GEORGIA O'KEEFFE (1887-1986)
                        TREES ABIQUIU IV


  • Christie's 2001

GEORGIA O'KEEFFE (1887-1986)


Estimate $2,500,000 - $3,500,000 Price Realized  $6,166,000 


National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC