Georgia O’Keeffe – beyond the artist – examined at Reynolda House

Quoting extensively from Georgia O’Keeffe’s letters, The O’Keeffe Circle: Artist as Gallerist and Collector at the Reynolda House Museum of American Art provides an intimate exploration of the artist in two other roles — as a gallerist with husband Arthur Steiglitz in New York, and a collector in her New York apartments and residences in New Mexico. The exhibition will be on view through March 6, 2022 in the Northeast and Northwest bedrooms of the historic 1917 home of Katharine and R.J. Reynolds.

The Museum’s recent promised gift, O’Keeffe’s Cedar Tree with Lavender Hills, 1937, will be joined by the artist’s Pool in the Woods, Lake George, along with works by Isamu Noguchi, Alexander Calder, John Marin, Marsden Hartley, Alfred Stieglitz, Charles Demuth, Max Weber, Ansel Adams and Arthur Dove. 

The exhibition’s “Artist as Collector” gallery explores the role of O’Keeffe as a gallerist along with Stieglitz, the gallerist and photographer whom she married in 1924.  The experimental paintings and drawings of  O’Keeffe found their greatest early advocate in Stieglitz. 

In 1916, O’Keeffe received her earliest public exposure when Stieglitz showed several of her watercolors at his Little Galleries of the Photo-Secession, known as 291 from its address at 291 Fifth Avenue in New York. Stieglitz was among the best-known American photographers when he founded the gallery with fellow photographer Edward Steichen, but his ambitions went far beyond elevating the status of his chosen medium. He promoted vanguard art with an evangelical enthusiasm, helping to match early Modernist painters with adventurous collectors. 

Through Stieglitz, O’Keeffe was introduced to critics, collectors, and a community of avant-garde painters with whom she showed her newest works. In time, several artists came to trust her to hang their shows at the galleries with the same careful eye that she brought to her own annual installation. In effect, O’Keeffe functioned as a co-curator with Stieglitz, often moderating his enthusiasms with a dispassionate exactness. 

With the artists represented in the exhibition’s “Artist as Collector” gallery, O’Keeffe exchanged visits, letters and works of art that met her standards for inclusion in her home, which art critic Michael Kimmelman called  “probably [her] best late work, in fact, her fullest statement about art and life.” She was highly judicious in selecting the art that she personally collected and displayed, claiming that “My home is simple, but I aim to make it simpler!” 

“I hope people will leave with a fuller image of O’Keeffe’s engagement with the art of her time. She developed a persona (helped by Stieglitz) of the remote, contemplative, detached doyenne of the desert, but she was keenly interested in her contemporaries’ work and unstinting with both praise and criticism,” Curator and Reynolda House deputy director Phil Archer said. “Their radically modern art, cultivated and sustained in the fertile hothouses of Stieglitz’s little galleries, would grow to redefine American art in the twentieth century.”

'The O’Keeffe Circle: Artist as Gallerist and Collector' at the Reynolda House Museum of American Art exhibition installation view.
‘The O’Keeffe Circle: Artist as Gallerist and Collector’ at the Reynolda House Museum of American Art exhibition installation view.

Hours and Admission

Reynolda House, located at 2250 Reynolda Rd., is open to visitors Tuesday-Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Sunday from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. Museum members, children 18 and under, students, military personnel, employees of Wake Forest University and Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center with valid ID receive free admission to the Museum.

Passes to Reynolda House in English and Spanish are available to check out from every branch of the Forsyth County Public Library free of charge. 

Reynolda Gardens is open from dawn to dusk daily free of charge.  The greenhouse is currently closed. Visit reynoldavillage.org for more information on shopping and dining. 

About Reynolda

Reynolda, in Winston-Salem, N.C., is a rare gem among the nation’s cultural institutions and historic greenspaces. The 54-year-old museum at the center of Reynolda’s 170 acres, Reynolda House Museum of American Art presents a renowned art collection in a historic and incomparable setting: the original 1917 interiors of Katharine and R. J. Reynolds’s historic home. Spanning 250 years, the collection is an uncompromisingly selective one, a chronology of American art, with each artist represented by one work of major significance.

The Reynolda experience includes a free app called Reynolda Revealed; touring exhibitions in the museum’s Mary and Charlie Babcock Wing; formal gardens, conservatory and walking trails of Reynolda Gardens; and more than 25 of the estate’s original buildings repurposed as shops and restaurants in Reynolda Village.

Connect at facebook.com/rhmaa and @CurateReynolda on Instagram.

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