Thursday, March 19, 2020

Georgia O’Keeffe: Abstract Variations

The Seattle Art Museum (SAM) presents Georgia O’Keeffe: Abstract Variations (March 5–June 28, 2020), featuring 17 early paintings and drawings by the celebrated American artist. The installation, held in a single gallery on the museum’s third floor, focuses on O’Keeffe’s explorations of abstraction and the development of her own style of modernism. One of the 20th century’s foremost modern artists, Georgia O’Keeffe (1887– 1986) is particularly known for her high-desert panoramas and intimate paintings of flowers. Abstract Variations instead explores key moments in her development as an artist as she explored pure abstraction.

The installation features 10 oil paintings, including the centerpiece of the show: the pairing of Music, Pink and Blue, No. 1 (1918), a recent addition to SAM’s collection gifted by the late Barney A. Ebsworth, and Music, Pink and Blue, No. 2 (1918), on loan from the Whitney Museum of American Art. Music, Pink and Blue, No. 1 is O’Keeffe’s first major oil painting, and it is the culmination of her experimentation with abstract forms and connection to music. Also on view are five charcoal and pastel drawings, which announce her unique visual vocabulary of spiraling, undulating forms and set the stage for Music, Pink and Blue, No. 1 and subsequent paintings. A monitor in the gallery features images of additional early drawings, offering visitors a more complete picture of O’Keeffe’s singular style. Two photographs of O’Keeffe by artist and art dealer Alfred Stieglitz—who married O’Keeffe in 1924—reveal the public persona that the artist would come to inhabit.

Abstract Variations was curated by Theresa Papanikolas, SAM’s Ann M. Barwick Curator of American Art; this is her first installation for the museum since joining in January 2019. The show brings together two paintings from SAM’s collection with loans from Whitney Museum of American Art; the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum; the National Gallery of Art; the Metropolitan Museum of Art; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; the Dallas Museum of Art; the Phoenix Art Museum; the Allen Family Collection; and an anonymous private collection.

Georgia O'Keeffe, American, 1887–1986, Music, Pink and Blue No. 2, 1918, oil on canvas, 35 x 29 15/16 in., Whitney Museum of American Art, Gift of Emily Fisher Landau in honor of Tom Armstrong, 91.90, Digital image © Whitney Museum of American Art / Licensed by Scala / Art Resource, NY.

Alfred Stieglitz, American, 1864–1946, Georgia O'Keeffe (in a chemise), 1918, gelatin silver print, 9 1/2 x 7 1/2 in., Georgia O'Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe, New Mexico, Gift of the Georgia O'Keeffe Foundation, 2006.6.1432, photo: Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe / Art Resource, NY.

Georgia O'Keeffe, American, 1887–1986, Music, Pink and Blue, No. 1, 1918, oil on canvas, 35 x 29 in., Seattle Art Museum, Gift of Barney A. Ebsworth, 2000.161, photo: Paul Macapia.

Georgia O'Keeffe, American, 1887–1986, Grey Lines with Black, Blue and Yellow, ca. 1923, oil on canvas, 48 x 30 in., The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Museum purchase funded by the Agnes Cullen Arnold Endowment Fund, 77.331, © 2019 Georgia O'Keeffe Museum / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Georgia O'Keeffe, American, 1887–1986, No. 8–Special (Drawing No. 8), 1916, charcoal on paper, 24 1/2 x 18 7/8 in., Whitney Museum of American Art, Purchase, with funds from the Mr. and Mrs. Arthur G. Altschul Purchase Fund, 85.52, Digital image © Whitney Museum of American Art / Licensed by Scala / Art Resource, NY