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Pedernal-From the Ranch #1

O’Keeffe started experimenting with abstraction in 1915, while she was a teacher in South Carolina.
Early No. 2, 1915, charcoal on laid paper, The Menil Collection, © 2006 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

The apples and the plate all have circular shapes.
Dark Red Apples and Tray No. 2, 1920/21, oil on canvas board, courtesy of Gerald Peters Gallery, © 2006 Georgia O’Keeffe Museum/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

This purely abstract painting was inspired by music.
Music—Pink and Blue II, 1919, oil on canvas, Whitney Museum of American Art, © 2006 Georgia O’Keeffe Museum/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

key idea
Circular shapes appear often in O’Keeffe’s artwork.

In 1915, a young Georgia O’Keeffe created a series of abstract charcoal drawings unlike anything she had done before. The drawings had no recognizable subjects; they were purely an exercise of lines, shapes, and shading. They jump-started her professional career (and opened a new chapter in her personal life) when they caught the eye of an important photographer and gallery owner, Alfred Stieglitz.

After those first abstract drawings, O’Keeffe continued to experiment. Inspired by the natural world—flowers, trees, fruits, bones, rocks, the moon—and sometimes by music, she painted abstractions in which circles, ovals, and spirals constantly reappear. These shapes can be seen in swirling rose petals, apples, knots in a piece of wood, or a glowing full moon.

You can also find circular forms in O’Keeffe’s pelvic bone series. In Pedernal—From the Ranch I, the circular opening of the socket focuses our view on her beloved Pedernal Mountain in the distance.

The circular graining in this knot of wood is so magnified it is hard to tell what you are seeing.
A Piece of Wood, 1942, oil on canvas, collection of Mr. and Mrs. Romano Vanderbes, © 2006 Georgia O’Keeffe Museum/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
October 2007