NARRATOR: With its soft, petal-like folds, this painting by Georgia O’Keeffe seems floral, but it doesn’t depict any particular flower. It’s an abstraction that the artist has rooted in natural form. When O’Keeffe painted this canvas in 1918, abstract art was very new and radical: the first fully abstract paintings had been made only eight years earlier. But the title that O’Keeffe has given this work—Music, Pink and Blue—hints that the ideas behind abstract art were already part of western culture. It had long been understood that music was expressive—even when it had no narrative or representational content. By likening her painting to music, O’Keeffe suggests that pure form and color can have expressive power too.
WANDACORN: One of the features of this painting is the beautiful sense of movement that you have where nothing is static in the picture.
NARRATOR: Wanda Corn is a historian of American Art.
WANDACORN: You feel as if every form is breathing and opening up to the form next to it. This was a very important concept of keeping forms in the stage of becoming. This was something that artists tried to do in their abstractions in the late ‘10s, and O’Keeffe is responding to that notion of time not stopping, of there being a constant movement in the work itself.
NARRATOR: From early on, critics found feminized forms in O’Keeffe’s paintings. To hear Wanda Corn discuss the artist’s reaction to these comments, tap your screen now.