Georgia O'Keeffe (1887 - 1986)

Lot 146: l - GEORGIA O'KEEFFE 1887-1986


May 24, 2006
New York, NY, US

More About this Item




9 by 16 in.

alternate measurements
(22.9 by 40.6 cm)

signed with the artist's initials OK and star and inscribed Mask with Golden Apple 21 on the backing

oil on canvas

Painted in 1923.


Doris Bry, New York
Acquired by the present owner from the above, by 1989


New York, Anderson Galleries, Alfred Stieglitz Presents Fifty-One Recent Pictures: Oils, Water-colors, Pastels, Drawings, by Georgia O'Keeffe, American, March 1924, no. 51 (as Apple with Mask)
Brooklyn, New York, The Brooklyn Museum, Paintings by Georgia O'Keeffe, June-September 1927, no. 13
New York, An American Place, Georgia O'Keeffe: Exhibition of Paintings (1919-1934), January-March 1935, no. 2 (as Negro Mask and Apple)
Chicago, Illinois, The Art Institute of Chicago, Georgia O'Keeffe, January-February 1943, no. 7
London, England, The Hayward Gallery; Mexico City, Mexico, El Museo del Palacio de Bellas Artes; Yokohama, Japan, Museum of Modern Art, Georgia O'Keeffe: American & Modern, April 1993-January 1994, no. 38
Stamford, Connecticut, Whitney Museum of American Art at Champion, Of, For, and By Georgia O'Keeffe, February-May 1994


Doris Bry and Nicholas Callaway, Georgia O'Keeffe: The New York Years, New York, 1991, no. 51, illustrated in color
Sarah Whitaker Peters, Becoming O'Keeffe, New York, 1991, no. 140, p. 274, illustrated
Charles C. Eldredge, Georgia O'Keeffe: American and Modern, New Haven, Connecticut, 1993, no. 38, p. 185-186, illustrated in color
Barbara Buhler Lynes, Georgia O'Keeffe: Catalogue Raisonné, vol. 1, New Haven, Connecticut, 1999, no. 408, p. 221, illustrated in color


A member of Alfred Stieglitz's coterie of artists, Georgia O'Keeffe first encountered the still-life photographs of Paul Strand and Edward Steichen at Stieglitz's gallery, 291. The influence of these images is apparent in many of O'Keeffe's still-lifes of the 1920s, particularly her series of red and green apples depicted starkly against black or white plates. As Charles C. Eldredge writes, O'Keeffe "releases the fruit and container from the confines of the tabletop to examine their form and clean outline against the ambiguous space of the white ground. The striking silhouette of the paired subjects, the fruit so rotund on the uptilted plane of the plate, defies both gravity and tradition. By isolating the motif and emphasizing its clean, hard contours O'Keeffe has given primacy to design over subject, just as Strand had done with his bowl abstraction" (Georgia O'Keeffe, New York, 1991, p. 61).

Painted in 1923, Mask with Golden Apple stands as a unique example among O'Keeffe's still-life paintings. Sarah Whitaker Peters writes, "This is the only African mask that O'Keeffe is known to have painted. Juxtaposed as it is with an apple, it seems to embody a sort of visual argument made up of two of Stieglitz's favorite, and most enlightened, pronouncements: that the root of European modern art lies in 'the statuary in wood by African savages' and that the apple is an appropriate metaphor for the native American artist's spirit. The work also possesses a distinctly photographic quality because the distance between the apple and the mask looks artificially compressed, a characteristic typical of close-up photographs" (Becoming O'Keeffe, New York, 1991, p. 274).

Eldredge continues, ". . . (T)he unexpected grouping raises multiple associations. It suggests the judgment of Parisian modernists, for whom the powerful influence of African art was already legendary. It also recalls the two African masks from Stieglitz's collection which O'Keeffe displayed on her walls in New Mexico; they were among the very few artworks by others which she tolerated having in her home. Surprisingly, O'Keeffe's mask is among the rare visual references by any of the Stieglitz artists to the arts of Sub-Saharan Africa, this despite Stieglitz's own early recognition of the force of that tradition. O'Keeffe's unique incorporation of the mask may have been intended as a mirror of Stieglitz's pioneering role in the recognition of African arts, particularly the sculptural tradition that O'Keeffe equated with the force of classical art through the symbol of the golden apple. By virtue of its importance to the genesis and iconography of cubism, the mask may also provide an indirect allusion to Picasso; among Stieglitz's Herculean labors on behalf of modern art was the presentation of the first solo show anywhere of the works of this most celebrated of contemporary artists" (Georgia O'Keeffe: American and Modern, New Haven, Connecticut, 1993, p. 185).
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