Executed in 1927, Line and Curve is the last in a group of four highly abstract, predominantly white, narrow vertical compositions whose imagery can be traced in part to Georgia O’Keeffe’s interest in Manhattan’s modern architecture. As its title indicates, Line and Curve consists of a simple juxtaposition of a vertical line running down the center of the canvas intersected by a sweeping curve that extends through the upper right quadrant of the composition. The painting verges on pure abstraction while combining architectonic elements with hints of more natural, curving, organic forms. The mottled, gently undulating, white paint surface with evanescent violet hues and the shading of the vertical line suggest the shallow spatial recessions of New York’s crowded spaces. The gray-white palette evokes a cloudy sky.
During the mid-1920s, O’Keeffe and her husband, Alfred Stieglitz, lived on the 30th floor of the newly opened Shelton Hotel on Lexington Avenue at 49th Street in New York City. This location inspired O’Keeffe to paint birds-eye views of the East River as well as street-level views of a number of the skyscrapers located in her midtown Manhattan neighborhood. O’Keeffe had first experimented with abstract forms in 1915, and the interplay between abstraction and representation would always inform her style. In 1976 she stated: “The abstraction is often the most definite form for the intangible thing in myself that I can only clarify in paint.”
During the mid-1920s, Georgia O’Keeffe and her husband,
Helen Bullitt Lowry and William Carter Halbert, “The New Architecture and the Old,” New York Times, May 4, 1924.
Executed in 1927, Line and Curve consists of a simple juxtaposition of a vertical line than runs down the center of the canvas intersected by a sweeping curve that extends through the upper right quadrant of the composition. The painting combines architectonic elements with hints of more natural, curving, organic forms. The mottled, gently undulating, white paint surface with evanescent violet hues and the shading of the vertical line suggest the shallow spatial recessions of New York’s crowded spaces. The gray-white palette evokes a cloudy sky.
Line and Curve is the last in a group of four highly abstract, predominantly white, narrow vertical compositions by O’Keeffe. The two initial works from 1926—Abstraction
Because of its harsh angularity and monochromatic quality, Charles Eldredge has related Black White and Blue to O’Keeffe’s Manhattan skyscraper subjects. Charles Eldredge, Georgia O’Keeffe (New York, 1991), 95.
All four of O’Keeffe’s white paintings should be understood in the context of the ongoing, complex dialogue in her work between hard-edged urban and softer, curvilinear natural forms, and more broadly between objective representation and subjective abstraction. New York-Night, for instance, has been interpreted as an abstract rendering of the convergence of Madison Avenue and two side streets seen from an elevated vantage point in the Shelton Hotel or, alternately, as a view across the sky comparable to a series of cloud photographs by Stieglitz known as Equivalents.
Jennifer Hardin, Georgia O’Keeffe: The Artist in Focus (St. Petersburg, FL, 1998), 8.
Bruce Robertson, “Useable Form: O’Keeffe’s Materials, Methods, and Motifs,” in Barbara Haskell, ed., Georgia O’Keeffe: Abstraction (New Haven and London, 2009), 128.
In 1976 at nearly 80 years old, O’Keeffe, echoing Stieglitz’s strategy with his Equivalents series, offered one of her most articulate statements on the relationship between objective realism and nonobjective abstraction: “I long ago came to the conclusion that even if I could put down accurately certain things that I saw and enjoyed it would not give the observer the kind of feeling the object gave me. I had to create an equivalent for what I felt about what I was looking at—not copy it.” She continued:
It is surprising to me how many people separate the objects from the abstract. Objective painting is not good painting unless it is good in the abstract sense. A hill or tree cannot make a good painting just because it is a hill or tree. It is lines and colors put together so that they say something. For me that is the very basis of painting. The abstraction is often the most definite form for the intangible thing in myself that I can only clarify in paint.
Georgia O’Keeffe, Georgia O’Keeffe (New York, 1976), below pl. 62, and opp. pl. 86. O’Keeffe had already articulated identical ideas about abstraction in a letter to an unknown recipient of March 21, 1937, quoted in Charles Eldredge, Georgia O’Keeffe: American and Modern (Fort Worth, TX and Abiquiu, NM, 1993), 171.
September 29, 2016
across top reverse, in pencil: Line and Curve-27 / signed within five-pointed star: OK
The artist [1887-1986]; her estate; bequest 1987 to NGA.
Associated NamesO'Keeffe, Georgia
- Georgia O'Keeffe: Paintings--New and Some Old, An American Place, New York, 1933, no. 23, as Abstraction, White, Grey and Violet.
- Some Marins, Some O'Keeffes, Some Doves, An American Place, New York, 1940, no. 14.
- Arthur G. Dove, John Marin, Georgia O'Keeffe, Alfred Stieglitz, An American Place, New York, 1941, no. 10.
- Georgia O'Keeffe: Retrospective Exhibition, Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1946, no. 26.
- Alfred Stieglitz Exhibition: His Collection, Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1947, no. 79 (circulated to Art Institute of Chicago in 1948; see next citation).
- Alfred Stieglitz: His Photographs and His Collection, Art Institute of Chicago, 1948.
- Georgia O'Keeffe: An Exhibition of the Work of the Artist from 1915 to 1966, Amon Carter Museum of Western Art, Fort Worth; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, March-July 1966, unnumbered catalogue.
- Georgia O'Keeffe, The Art Museum, The University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, September-October 1966, unnumbered catalogue.
- Georgia O'Keeffe: Paintings, Museum of Fine Arts, Museum of New Mexico, Santa Fe, 1986-1987, unnumbered catalogue.
- Georgia O'Keeffe: American and Modern, The Hayward Gallery, London; Palacio de Bellas Artes, Mexico City; Yokohama Museum of Art, Japan, 1993-1994, no. 40, repro.
- Georgia O'Keeffe: Abstraction, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.; Georgia O'Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe, 2009-2010, unnumbered catalogue, pl. 94.
- Collection Conversations: The Chrysler and the National Gallery, Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, 2015-2016, no catalogue.
- Georgia O'Keeffe, Tate Modern, London; Bank Austria Kunstforum, Vienna; Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, 2016-2017, unnumbered catalogue, fig. 37 (shown only in London).
The unlined plain weave fabric support remains mounted on its original stretcher. All the tacking margins are intact. The artist applied paint directly and thickly over a bright white paint layer that was placed on top of the commercially prepared gray-white ground. There is evidence of a rudimentary pencil underdrawing. The painting is in excellent condition. The surface has not been varnished.
- American Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1992: 249, repro.
- Lynes, Barbara Buhler. Georgia O'Keeffe: Catalogue Raisonné. 2 vols. New Haven and London, 1999: 1:328, no. 572, color repro.
- Kirsh, Andrea, and Rustin S. Levenson. Seeing Through Paintings: Physical Examination in Art Historical Studies. Materials and Meaning in the Fine Arts 1. New Haven, 2000: 264.