NARRATOR: The forms on this canvas recall nature, but their high-key color is not quite natural. Two delicate pink forms frame brilliant layers of yellow, blue, and strands of green. At the heart of the composition there’s a black ellipse, suggesting an opening into a space beyond the form.
Here, O’Keeffe has borrowed techniques she picked up from modernist photography—close cropping and magnification. We seem to view this form at extremely close range, and this heightens the sense of abstraction.
Photography was an extremely important medium in early American modernism. As you can see in the room of photographs nearby, O’Keeffe became very familiar with modernist photographic techniques through her connection to Stieglitz and the vanguard photographers in his circle. At that time, many people refused to see photography as fine art—and they certainly didn’t see it as being on par with painting. Part of O’Keeffe’s radical modernity was to adapt the techniques of a new medium to the materials of an old one, forging them into a personal vision.
Further along this wall is a similar painting titled Grey Lines with Lavender and Yellow. Both paintings were made around the same time—in 1924 when O’Keeffe and Stieglitz were married. Stieglitz called them “the wedding pictures.” Since the time they were made they have rarely been shown together.