Fruit and floral still lifes were an integral part of Georgia O’Keeffe’s oeuvre over the course of her career. She used them for her experiments with abstraction-typically simplifying and enlarging the forms of fruits and flowers as she worked with both bold and subtle ranges of color. Of some two dozen canvases she painted in 1937, six were flowers, including hollyhocks, amaryllis, and this sunflower.
O’Keeffe did not paint an extensive series of sunflowers. She featured them in a pair of canvases in 1935 (Cleveland Museum of Art; private collection) and returned to the subject two years later. In all of the sunflower compositions, she featured a single, virtually life-sized blossom against a colored setting. The flowers are seen close-up, but they have not been greatly enlarged or severely abstracted. In A Sunflower for Maggie, O’Keeffe used a light salmon background which at first seems to contrast to the rich yellow of the flower, but the background color is carefully picked up in the petals. The greens of the florets and leaves are also echoed discreetly in the petals, creating a unified composition.
The “Maggie” of the title refers to O’Keeffe’s friend, Margaret Johnson, wife of Robert Wood Johnson, president of the pharmaceutical company Johnson and Johnson. They owned a house near O’Keeffe at Ghost Ranch in New Mexico.
female artistflowersunfloweroil on canvas