A Long-Lost Georgia O’Keeffe Watercolor Goes On View at Her Old Texas Stomping Grounds

The painting hasn't been publicly exhibited since 1958.

Georgia O’Keeffe, Red and Green II (1916). Courtesy of the Panhandle–Plains Historical Museum.

A Georgia O’Keeffe painting will be on public view for the first time in decades, thanks to an exhibition at the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum at West Texas A&M University in Canyon, Texas, on view through October. The 1916 watercolor, Red and Green II, was completed early in her career.

In Georgia O’Keeffe: Catalogue Raisonné, Barbara Buhler Lynes included the  black-and-white photograph and caption information about the early work that were in O’Keeffe’s records. The painting was rediscovered when the Doris Bry Trust  offered 27 O’Keeffe works on paper at Christie’s New York American Art sale last November. Bry (1920–2014) was O’Keeffe’s exclusive agent from the early 1960s through the mid-1970s, and a leading authority on the artist.

Glasstire reports that Michael R. Grauer, the Panhandle-Plains museum’s curator of art and Western heritage, then came across the painting in a private collection while looking for work to include in the museum’s upcoming exhibition, “When Georgia Was Here” (August 29, 2016–February 24, 2018).

Alfred Stieglitz, <em>Portrait of Georgia O'Keeffe</em> (1918). Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Alfred Stieglitz, Portrait of Georgia O’Keeffe (1918). Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Around the time of the work’s creation, O’Keeffe had just arrived at West Texas State Normal College (since renamed West Texas A&M), where she taught between the fall of 1916 and early 1918. The show will celebrate the centennial of her time in Canyon.

“People kind of make pilgrimages to Canyon Texas cause she lived here,” Grauer told artnet News. “They’re always looking for O’Keeffes when they come in the door.” Red and Green II is currently filling in for the one painting by the artist in the museum collection, Red Landscape (also painted during her West Texas tenure), while it is being borrowed by the O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe.

Prior to last year’s sale, according to the exhibition history provided by Christie’sRed and Green II had only been shown publicly once, for the month-long 1958 show “Watercolors 1916–17,” at New York’s Downtown Gallery. Grauer expressed surprise over the painting’s sparse exhibition history, noting that this time during her career “in particular has been heavily researched and studied.”

Georgia O’Keeffe, <em>Red Landscape</em> (1916–17). Courtesy of the Panhandle–Plains Historical Museum.

Georgia O’Keeffe, Red Landscape (1916–17). Courtesy of the Panhandle–Plains Historical Museum.

Red and Green II represents an important moment in O’Keeffe’s career, when she decided to dedicate herself to becoming a professional artist. “Avenues for women artists were not that wide other than teaching or commercial art,” Grauer noted. Obviously, O’Keeffe defied the odds, showing that year at the New York gallery of photographer Alfred Stieglitz.

According to the artnet Price Database, O’Keeffe holds the record for most expensive work by a female artist sold at auction for Jimson weed/White Flower no. 1 (1932), which sold for $44.4 million at Sotheby’s New York in November 2014 to Walmart heiress Alice Walton, who bought the canvas for her Crystal Bridges Museum in Bentonville, Arkansas.

The artist’s previous auction record was $6.2 million, but that number has since been surpassed two other times, with White Calla Lily ($9 million) in May of last year, also at Sotheby’s New York; and just this month with Lake George Reflection ($12.9 million) at Christie’s New York. Red and Green II sold for $75,000, exceeding the $50,000–70,000 pre-sale estimate.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article erroneously stated that Red and Green II was listed in the catalog raisonné as having been destroyed by the artist. The note about a destroyed work referred in fact to a different piece, Special No. 26. artnet News regrets the error.

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