Cosmetics entrepreneur Elizabeth Arden commissioned Georgia O'Keeffe to paint Jimson Weed, originally titled Miracle Flower, to hang in the exercise room of the new Gymnasium Moderne at Arden's Fifth Avenue Salon in New York City. During stretching exercises, clients of the salon "unfurled" like the flowers in O'Keeffe's painting on the wall behind them. Arden paid O'Keeffe $10,000, considered an astonishing amount at the time, for the largest floral composition the artist would ever create.
The four blossoms are placed in an energetic design that repeats the tight rhythm of the jimson weed's pinwheel-shaped flower. About this plant, which grew near the artist's home in New Mexico, O'Keeffe said, "When I think of the delicate fragrance of the flowers, I almost feel the coolness and sweetness of the evening." She emphasized her subject's fresh beauty with a bright, simplified palette and rhythmic treatment of light and shadow.
O'Keeffe, one of the first American modernists, was at the heart of the group of artists who gathered around Alfred Stieglitz, the photographer and art dealer who became her husband. The sheer size of her flowers-an arresting manipulation of scale-represented a radical modernist innovation.
...When Eli Lilly and Company purchased the Arden firm in the 1970s, it also acquired the painting. Lilly sold the Arden subsidiary in 1987 and they lent the painting to the Indianapolis Museum of Art at that time. The company ultimately donated it to the museum in 1997.