Taos Mountain, New Mexico
Oil on canvas
Gift of M. Rosalie Leidinger and Louise W. Schmidt; P.993.62
Like several artists in the circle of photographer and dealer Alfred Stieglitz, Georgia O’Keeffe abstracted form in order to capture the essence of her subjects. She attempted to imbue all of her works— from her schematic images of the New York skyline to her magnified, closely cropped flower paintings—with an expressive, organic vitality. She was drawn increasingly to painting nature, especially the expansive, light-bathed landscape of the Southwest, which she first visited in 1929 and to which she moved permanently in 1949. O’Keeffe painted Taos Mountain during her second summer in New Mexico. There she discovered a spiritual affinity for the rugged terrain that would inspire some of her most celebrated works. In this painting as in others, O’Keeffe retained the integrity of the landscape she so admired, yet she rounded its contours, compacted its space, and intensified its colors with a fresh palette of vivid greens and soft violets, creating a painting that is at once representational and abstract. As had Abbott Thayer in his painting of Mount Monadnock, O’Keeffe pushed the mountain’s summit up against the top edge of the canvas, thereby accentuating its monumental presence, aspiring height, and transcendent significance beyond appearance. After this second season in the Southwest, she wrote to a friend, “The Mountain calls one and the desert—and the sagebrush—the country seems to call one in a way that one has to answer it.” O’Keeffe’s fluid, feathery rendering of the sagebrush reflects the more expressive brushwork that she adopted for a brief period around 1930—a manner that contrasted sharply with the smooth-surfaced, hard-edged work that both preceded and followed this period.
Last Updated: 4/29/09