Property from the Estate of Andrew C. Bayle
Georgia O'Keeffe (1887-1986)

Squash Blossom No. II

Georgia O'Keeffe (1887-1986)
Squash Blossom No. II
signed and inscribed 'Squash Blossom No II/For Mr. Bayle with/much appreciation of/many of our struggles/with frames/Sincerely/Georgia O'Keeffe/April 12-1946-' (on the backing board)
oil on board
18 x 14 in. (45.7 x 35.6 cm.)
Painted in 1925.
The artist.
Peter Bayle, New York, gift from the above, 1946.
By descent to the present owner, 1963.
B.B. Lynes, Georgia O'Keeffe: Catalogue Raisonné, vol. one, New Haven, Connecticut, 1999, p. 276, no. 497, illustrated.
New York, Intimate Gallery, Fifty Recent Paintings by Georgia O'Keeffe, February 11-March 11, 1926.
Boston, Massachusetts, Harvard University, Fogg Art Museum, 1979, on loan.



During the late 1910s Georgia O'Keeffe began painting magnified images of flowers and leaves, enabling the artist to concentrate on color and form. As many Modernists such as Charles Sheeler and John Marin turned to the industrial sector for inspiration in subject matter, O'Keeffe embraced the natural world. "O'Keeffe's work, a counter-response to technology, was soft, voluptuous and intimate. Full of rapturous colors and yielding surfaces, it furnishes a sense of astonishing discovery...Though the work is explicitly feminine, it is convincingly and triumphantly powerful, a combination that had not before existed." (R. Robinson, Georgia O'Keeffe: A Life, New York, 1989, p. 278) By applying the Modernist aesthetics to natural forms, O'Keeffe drew the viewer's attention to their often unappreciated beauty.

Much of O'Keeffe's inspiration came from Lake George, where the artist spent time with her husband Alfred Stieglitz during the summer and autumn months. As Charles Eldredge notes, "Alfred Stieglitz, like many urbanites then and now, also had a rural base, at Lake George in upstate New York, and every year he joined other members of the large family at his mother's home there. In August 1918, he was accompanied by O'Keeffe, who was warmly received by the mater familias and the sundry siblings, in-laws, and offspring of the Stieglitz tribe." (Georgia O'Keeffe, New York, 1991, p. 39) Soon O'Keeffe began to take frequent sojourns to the region, where she began a diverse series of paintings related to the lake and her impressions of the surrounding natural landscape.

Squash Blossom No. II reflects the pictorial strategies that O'Keeffe had developed as an avant-garde American Modernist: interest in a type of heightened realism that pushes an image to the edge of abstraction. The work demonstrates O'Keeffe's ability to balance seemingly opposite forces, separating the blossom from its natural environment and concentrating on form and color. She flattens the petals and leaves, layering forms and colors, as lines dissect the work emanating from the center of the flower and leaf, twisting and curling. With the vibrant yellows and greens, O'Keeffe transforms the flower into abstractions of color. She stated, "It is lines and colors put together so that they may 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." (as quoted in Georgia O'Keeffe, p. 36)

O'Keeffe often acknowledged the substantial influence of her teacher Arthur Wesley Dow on her works. She recalled, "This man had one dominating idea; to fill space in a beautiful way--and that interested me." (as quoted in E.H. Turner, Georgia O'Keeffe: The Poetry of Things, New Haven, Connecticut, 1999, p. 1) As a student of Dow, O'Keeffe was influenced by his teachings of what was known to his students as "the trinity of power": line, notan--the Japanese concept of using balanced values of darks and lights--and color. These ideas were further reinforced through her own readings in modern art theory and through Stieglitz and his photographs.

O'Keeffe wrote, "I long ago came to the conclusion that even if I could put down accurately the thing that I saw and enjoyed, it would not give the observer the kind of feeling it gave me. I had to create an equivalent for what I felt about what I was looking at--not copy it." (as quoted in M.P. Balge-Crozier, "Still Life Redefined" in Georgia O'Keeffe: The Poetry of Things, Washington, D.C., 1999, p. 69) Rather than simply creating an objective visual record of that which she discovered in nature, O'Keeffe chose to render the forms in Squash Blossom No. II in an abstract way by including her subjective emotions about the real objects into her representations. Squash Blossom No. II, painted in 1925, characterizes her work of this period with its simplified abstraction and vibrant and expressive color.

In 1926, the journalist Blanche Matthias wrote a celebratory biographical account of O'Keeffe's success. For Matthias, O'Keeffe embodied a feminist ideal, "She is like the flickering flame of a candle, steady, serene, softly brilliant...this woman who lives fearlessly, reasons logically, who is modest, unassertive, and spiritually beautiful, and who, because she dares paint as she feels, has become not only one of the most magical artists of our time, but one of the most stimulatingly powerful." (as quoted in Georgia O'Keeffe: A Life, p. 294)

Squash Blossom No. II and the preceding lot, Squash Blossom, were gifts from the artist to the father of the present owner. Peter Bayle owned Costamp Metal Company in New York and created frames for the artist. The present lot is accompanied by copies of letters from O'Keeffe to Bayle including orders for frames, references to bills as well as holiday and greeting cards.

The present work retains an oil sketch of Lake George, New York, on the reverse.