Modern Nature: Georgia O'Keeffe and Lake George
4 October 2013 – 26 January 2014
The Hyde Collection, in association with the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, is organizing a first‑of‑its kind exhibition that will closely examine the extraordinary body of work created by O’Keeffe of and at Lake George. The exhibition will explore the full range of work by the artist from magnified botanical compositions of the flowers and vegetables that O’Keeffe grew in her garden, to a group of remarkable still lifes of the apples and pears that she picked on the property. O’Keeffe became fascinated with the variety of trees – cedars, maples, poplars, and birches – that grew in abundance at Lake George, and they were the subject of at least twenty‑five compositions. Telescopic views of a single leaf or pairs of overlapping leaves were another recurring motif during O’Keeffe’s Lake George years, resulting in some twenty‑nine canvases. Architectural subjects, including paintings of the weathered barns and buildings on the Stieglitz property that blend the descriptive and the abstract, emerged as a theme, as did a number of panoramic landscape paintings and bold, color‑filled abstractions that often visually related to the subjects she was working on at the time. All of these themes will be explored through a selection of approximately fifty‑five works from public and private collections.
Like many artists of her generation and earlier ones as well, O’Keeffe painted throughout the summer and fall and transported canvases back to her New York studio for completion and exhibition in the spring. During this highly productive decade, O’Keeffe created more than two hundred paintings on canvas and paper in addition to sketches and pastels, making the Lake George years among the most prolific and transformative of her seven‑decade career. This period also coincided with O’Keeffe’s first critical success and professionalization as an artist; yet, Lake George is often portrayed as an annoyance from which she tried to escape. As this exhibition will demonstrate, Lake George served as a rural retreat for the artist, providing the basic material for her art, while evoking the spirit of place that was essential to O’Keeffe’s modern approach to the natural world.
In 1923, Georgia O’Keeffe enthusiastically wrote to her friend Sherwood Anderson, “I wish you could see the place here – there is something so perfect about the mountains and the lake and the trees – Sometimes I want to tear it all to pieces – it seems so perfect – but it is really lovely – And when the household is in good running order – and I feel free to work it is very nice.”
Petunia No. 2, 1924. Oil on canvas, 36 x 30 in. Copyright Georgia O'Keeffe Museum.