Georgia O'Keeffe's Grey Hill Forms

Essay by Douglas MurphyCollege, UndergraduateA+, November 1996

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Applies to all Georgia O'Keeffe landscapes -

When Georgia O'Keeffe painted Grey Hill Forms in 1936, she was already at the height of a career that brought her both popular and critical acclaim. In 1929, she spent the summer in Taos, New Mexico and was overwhelmed by the unique visual experience the landscapes provided. She affectionately referred to the land of northern New Mexico as 'the faraway'... a place of stark beauty and infinite space. Her sources of imagery lie in the world of nature, but nature interpreted with great freedom. Georgia found the thin, dry air enabled her to see farther. Her art expressed these personal emotions and perceptions in a completely individual style that combines both strength and crystalline clarity. In Grey Hill Forms, O'Keeffe utilizes traditional ideas of light and space in contrast with innovative non-objective elements.

Like many other early American modernists, O'Keeffe was fueled by post-impressionistic goals.

She had realized by 1915 that all of her work was influenced by someone else. Although she had earlier won awards for her still life work, Georgia was dissatisfied with casual reality as subject matter and was determined to paint her personal rural experience. 'I realized that I had a lot of things in my head that others didn't have,' she said. 'I made up my mind to put down what was in my head.' She was one of the first artists to explore the possibilities of non-objectivity, and thus was one of the considerable contributors to visionary modernism.

In Grey Hill Forms, Georgia O'Keeffe begins with the traditionally painterly ideals. Strong diagonal lines of recession draw the eye through the scene to create a smoothly three dimensional space. Warm yellows and greens recede into deeper indigos and cool grays. Dramatic contrasts in light and tone aid in...