41 pastel drawing of a bright blue sea with patches of brown rocks; touch of green at center

© 2017 Georgia O%27Keeffe Museum %2F Artists Rights Society %28ARS%29%2C New York

Blue Sea with Rocks, 1922

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Gift of Alfred and Ingrid Lenz Harrisonexpand_more  2017.121

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2018 Accession Highlight

Georgia O’Keeffe had a special talent for defining the essential character of a place. In the 1920s she made several summer visits to York Beach, Maine, finding refuge away from the heat and hustle of New York. Blue Sea with Rocks is from her third season there, in 1922.

At first glance the composition reads as a flat image—perhaps pure abstraction. Then the flatness shifts and becomes infinite depth as we note the white streak marking the horizon. Colors catch our attention—greens in the water and brown, green, and lavender in the rocks. The deep blue of the open ocean fades to lighter tones in the shallow cove. The brown face of the upper rock reveals that the light comes from over the artist’s right shoulder. Abstraction, which earlier in O’Keeffe’s career had been a pure pursuit, has given way to a portrait of a bright summer afternoon.

This exquisite pastel is by one of America’s most popular artists, Georgia O’Keeffe. It is so lovely that it remained in her brother-in-law’s family for 70 years. It is a superb example of a modernist abstract landscape. Though seemingly simple at first glance, it is a work that rewards extended and close observation, revealing its subtleties and dualities over time. O’Keeffe was among the greatest pastel artists of the 1900s, and this will be the first from her hand in Mia’s collection.

41 pastel drawing of a bright blue sea with patches of brown rocks; touch of green at center

© 2017 Georgia O'Keeffe Museum / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York