Artist Georgia O'Keeffe didn't spend her entire career painting large, lavish flowers.
The curator of the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe, N.M., says that comes as a surprise to many people. Now, the museum has purchased The Barns, Lake George, a rarely seen 1926 abstract painting that makes the point and helps the institution tell more of her story.
The museum paid $3.3 million for the painting. It depicts structures on a rural retreat used by O'Keeffe and her husband, photographer Alfred Stieglitz, in Lake George, N.Y. The museum's announcement explains:
"Of the subjects O'Keeffe pursued at Lake George in the 1920s—her most prolific decade—the various barns on the Stieglitz property most directly connect her to the interests of various members of the Stieglitz circle and other American modernists to identify distinctly national subjects."
The Santa Fe New Mexican reports:
"The museum made the acquisition with funds from the November 2014 sale of several paintings in its collection, including the iconic Jimson Weed/White Flower No. 1, which brought in $44.4 million — the highest auction price in the world for any piece by a female painter.
"O'Keeffe Museum curator Carolyn Kastner said the museum sold Jimson Weed so it could buy more O'Keeffe paintings and diversify its collection.
"The new painting is an example of the artist's lesser-known interests in abstract composition. 'It comes as a surprise to many people that she painted many things other than flowers,'" Kastner said."
"[The Barns, Lake George] came from the estate of Marion 'Kippy' Bolton Stroud, the artist and philanthropist who died in 2015.
"Before being shown at the Kunsthaus Zurich in 2003–04, the painting had not been on view since 1954, when it was displayed at the gallery at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. It had previously been included in her 1946 retrospective at New York's Museum of Modern Art."
The museum's announcement quotes O'Keeffe as saying her interest in barns stemmed from her upbringing on a farm in Wisconsin.