Published: June 2, 2016
SANTA FE, N.M. — The Georgia O’Keeffe Museum has acquired a rare 1926 painting by Georgia O’Keeffe titled “The Barns, Lake George.” Funds from the museum’s acquisition fund were used to purchase the painting, which sold at Christie’s American art sale May 19 for $3,301,000.
Exhibited in multiple important exhibitions during O’Keeffe’s lifetime, including her landmark retrospective at MoMA, the painting has been held in private collections since 1946. It has only been shown publicly once in the last 50 years.
The painting portrays the rustic barns that surrounded the Stieglitz family property overlooking the shores of Lake George, N.Y. Though O’Keeffe only painted this scene a handful of times, the images of the barns have become an icon of the artist’s time at Lake George.
Raised on a farm in Wisconsin, she felt a particular connection to these structures. “The barn is a very healthy part of me — there should be more of it — it is something that I know too — it is my childhood.”
“The Barns, Lake George,” 1926, fills a notable gap in the museum’s collection and will allow it to significantly enhance its “My New Yorks” gallery. The painting will go on view in the coming months,” said Georgia O’Keeffe Museum director Robert A. Kret.
The museum’s “My New Yorks” gallery focuses on the significance of two places in New York State, New York City and Lake George, in O’Keeffe’s artistic and personal development. It will take its place alongside images of the city and the rural retreat made by both O’Keeffe and her husband, Alfred Stieglitz.
Of the subjects O’Keeffe pursued at Lake George in the 1920s — her most prolific decade — the various barns on the Stieglitz property most directly connect her to the interests of various members of the Stieglitz circle and other American Modernists to identify distinctly national subjects. Barns conveyed a sense of a rural, regional identity and connected Modernism to an idealized agrarian past. They were also a counterpoint to industrialism and the growth of metropolitan centers.
O’Keeffe’s interest in the subject of barns is one she shared with her peers such as Charles Sheeler and Charles Demuth — that demonstrates her awareness of the growing interest in regionalism — and her direct participation in a broader conversation about national art. “The Barns, Lake George” is an outstanding example from the series of fewer than ten paintings of the barns at Lake George made between 1921 and 1934. O’Keeffe also painted barns found in Canada and Wisconsin.
The Georgia O’Keeffe Museum is at 217 Johnson Street. For information, 505-946-1000 or www.okeeffemuseum.org.
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