Georgia O’Keeffe: “Things I Had No Words For”

Curated by Dr. Francine Weiss

July 16, 2022 - October 16, 2022

Cushing Gallery

Georgia O’Keeffe, Pink Hills, 1937, Oil on canvas, 9 x 14 inches, Courtesy of Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University, Dr. and Mrs. Milton Lurie Kramer, Class of 1936, Collection; Bequest of Helen Kroll Kramer, © 2021 Georgia O’Keeffe Museum / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

“The abstraction is often the most definite form for the intangible in myself that I can only clarify in paint . . . .  I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way things I had no words for.”

-Georgia O’Keeffe

Georgia O’Keeffe is hailed for her representational paintings of colorful flowers and southwestern landscapes. Yet O’Keeffe made many strong and vibrant abstract works throughout her career. In the past decade, scholars and curators alike have devoted more attention to O’Keeffe’s use of abstraction, which the artist herself proclaimed was her visual vocabulary for ineffable emotions and sensations.  

O’Keeffe’s enduring interest in abstraction dates back to the beginning of her career when, influenced by the teachings of Arthur Wesley Dow, she created a series of abstract charcoal drawings. Emotive and biomorphic, these early abstractions brought her into the orbit of her future husband Alfred Stieglitz when her friend, Anita Pollitzer, showed them to the gallery owner in 1915. These “things she had no words for” originated from a place of dreams and memories that she often felt came nearer to reality than her representational work. 

Featuring oil paintings, drawings, and watercolors, this exhibition celebrates O’Keeffe’s exploration of abstraction, which established her as one of the foundational American modernists. Powerful, bold, colorful, and evocative, O’Keeffe’s abstractions represent her unique style and approach to nature and landscape.

This exhibition marks the second show of Georgia O’Keeffe’s work at the Newport Art Museum. O’Keeffe first exhibited her work, with other American modern artists, in 1938 and alongside an exhibition of Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney’s sculpture. The Museum is especially thrilled to show O’Keeffe’s work again after so many years.

Newport Art Museum wishes to thank the following donors for their generous exhibition support:

Diane B. Wilsey

West Bay View Foundation
Kate Gubelmann
Robert & Heidi Manice

Pamelee M. Murphy
Denise L. Roberts
Cynthia Sinclair

Bank of America Private Bank
Brenton Hotel
Jack & Sherri Grace
Diana Prince