Simple Beauty: Paintings by Georgia O’Keeffe

Simple Beauty: Paintings – The Journal of Antiques and Collectibles – June 2006

by Georgia O’Keeffe

Shelburne Museum’s schedule of new exhibitions this season includes Simple Beauty: Paintings by Georgia O’Keeffe, a major exhibition of some 25 works by one of the most accomplished and admired artists of the 20th century. Simple Beauty, open June 24 through October 31, 2006, is the first Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986) exhibition in Vermont and includes landscapes, still-lifes and abstract paintings.

The paintings in Simple Beauty are on loan from museums and private collections throughout the United States, including the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Denver Art Museum, and the Baltimore Museum of Art. Among the subjects are landscapes of the American Southwest and close-up views of flowers for which O’Keeffe is famous, and city scenes and abstract works that are less well known.

Several works on loan from private collections have rarely been on public view, and many in the exhibition date from the 1920s when the public was just beginning to recognize her importance as an artist.

Simple Beauty provides an overview of O’Keeffe’s powerful artistic output and highlights connections between her work and other expressions of American landscape painting, including artists represented in Shelburne’s permanent collection such as Andrew Wyeth and Martin Johnson Heade. Says Stephan Jost, Director of Shelburne Museum, “I am thrilled for Shelburne to host this exhibition of such an influential artist. O’Keeffe found great inspiration in nature; we hope people will come enjoy this exhibit in the Museum’s beautiful Vermont setting.”

Many of the works in Simple Beauty date from the 1920s when she was beginning to exhibit with great success in New York City. Summer trips during these years to the Lake George, New York family estate of her husband (and famed photographer) Alfred Stieglitz and, beginning in 1929, to New Mexico instilled in O’Keeffe a deep, spiritual bond with nature that she expressed in her art throughout her career. Following Stieglitz’s death in 1946 O’Keeffe moved permanently to New Mexico.

Among the highlights of Simple Beauty is The Mountain – New Mexico (1931), a large, arresting landscape on loan from the Whitney Museum of American Art, and Purple Petunia (1927), a stunning, sensual flower view from a private collection that has been publicly exhibited only twice. Also included is East River –No. 1 (1926), a black-and-white scene of a smoky New York City industrial landscape; a style and subject not often associated with O’Keeffe. Simple Beauty is Shelburne Museum’s first exhibition of O’Keeffe’s work and one of the largest loan exhibitions ever assembled by the Museum. Shelburne’s permanent collection includes over 400 19th- and 20th-century American paintings; other paintings exhibitions on view this season include The Vermont Landscape in the 19th Century and Steamboats. The consulting curator for Simple Beauty is Valerie Ann Leeds, an independent curator.

Shelburne Museum Information

The museum is open 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. daily, May 1 – October 31, 2006. Admission is $18 adults/$9 children (6-18)/under 6 admitted free. Tickets are valid for 2 consecutive days. Admission is half-price for Vermont residents in 2006. (802) 985-3346, www.shelburnemuseum.org

Shelburne Museum, founded in 1947, is one of the nation’s finest, most unconventional museums of art, Americana, and design. 39 buildings display over 150,000 objects spanning four centuries. Outstanding collections of folk art, decorative arts, tools, toys, textiles and transportation vehicles are exhibited, as are paintings by artists including Monet, Manet, Cassatt, Degas, Andrew Wyeth, Thomas Cole, Winslow Homer, Grandma Moses and others. The museum’s 25 19th-century structures include a covered bridge, a round barn, a lighthouse and the 220-foot restored steamboat Ticonderoga.

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