New Exhibition “Modern Nature: Georgia O’Keeffe and Lake George” to Open October 4, 2013

First ever exhibition to explore the art produced during the years the artist lived in the Adirondacks with Alfred Stieglitz

Date September 13, 2013 at 12:02 PM

Author Staff

Publication SantaFe.com

Categories Art Markets & Galleries

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The Hyde Collection, in association with the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, is organizing a first-of-its kind exhibition that will closely examine the body of work created by O’Keeffe of and at Lake George, New York. The exhibition opens in Santa Fe on October 4, 2013 and will be on view through January 2014.

Between 1918 and 1934, Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986) lived for part of each year at Alfred Stieglitz’s (1864-1946) family estate on Lake George, the popular resort destination in the Adirondacks of New York. The 36-acre property was situated just north of Lake George Village along the western shoreline. It served as a rural retreat for the artist, providing the basic materials for her art and a distinct spirit of place that was essential to O’Keeffe’s modern approach to the natural world. During this highly productive decade, O’Keeffe created more than 200 paintings on canvas and paper in addition to sketches and pastels, making her Lake George years among the most prolific and transformative of her seven-decade career. This period also coincided with her first critical success and emergence as a professional artist; yet, Lake George is often portrayed as an annoyance from which she tried to escape.

“In later years, O’Keeffe herself, and various writers described the Lake George years as a period of frustration,” according to Dr. Cody Hartley, director of curatorial affairs at the O’Keeffe Museum. “There is this sense that she felt constantly harassed by the overbearing Stieglitz family and found the landscape cloying, as if it was too overgrown to offer creative inspiration.” The exhibition and accompanying catalogue provides an important corrective. “In looking closely at her art and correspondence from the Lake George years, it becomes clear just how richly inspiring she found the region. Her deep awareness of the natural world, be it a landscape or a botanical subject, is as much indebted to her time at Lake George as anywhere.”    

In 1923, for example, O’Keeffe enthusiastically wrote to her friend Sherwood Anderson, “I wish you could see the place here – there is something so perfect about the mountains and the lake and the trees – Sometimes I want to tear it all to pieces – it seems so perfect – but it is really lovely – and when the household is in good running order – and I feel free to work it is very nice.”

The exhibition explores the full range of O’Keeffe’s work inspired by Lake George, from magnified botanical compositions of the flowers and vegetables that she grew in her garden, to a group of remarkable still lifes of the apples and pears that she picked on the property. O’Keeffe became fascinated with the variety of trees—cedars, maples, poplars, and birches—that grew in abundance at Lake George, and they were the subject of at least 25 compositions. Telescopic views of a single leaf or pairs of overlapping leaves were another recurring motif during O’Keeffe’s Lake George years, resulting in some 29 canvases. Architectural subjects, including paintings of the weathered barns and buildings on the Stieglitz property that blend the descriptive and the abstract, emerged as a theme, as did a number of panoramic landscape paintings and bold, color-filled abstractions that often visually related to the subjects she was working on at the time. Landscape views of the lake and surrounding hills, throughout the seasons and in a variety of conditions were also a recurring subject. All of these themes will be explored through a selection of approximately 55 works gathered from public and private collections.

O’Keeffe painted throughout the summer and fall at Lake George and transported canvases back to her New York studio for completion and exhibition in the spring. Based in Glens Falls, New York, just a short distance from Lake George and the location of the Stieglitz property, the Hyde Collection brings a rich understanding of the region and its historical context. As Erin B. Coe, chief curator of the Hyde Collection, observes, “Modern Nature offers an unprecedented opportunity to intimately connect the works to the environment that conditions that inspiration.”

Modern Nature: Georgia O’Keeffe and Lake George was organized by the Hyde Collection, in association with the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum. The national presentations of the exhibition and catalogue have been made possible, in part, with support from The Henry Luce Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. Additional support and related programming were made possible, in part, by a generous grant from The Burnett Foundation, and partially funded by the City of Santa Fe Arts Commission and the 1% Lodgers’ Tax. Additional support for the catalogue has been provided by Furthermore, a program of the J.M. Kaplan Fund.

From a Georgia O'Keeffe Museum press release...

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