Cottonwood III offers a glimpse into the mind of Georgia O’Keeffe, arguably one of the most celebrated American artists of the twentieth century. Who, painting among the desiccated plains of the Southwest, drew upon spindly trees, desert flowers, and bleached animal skulls for her inspiration. This intimate response to the distinctive landscape and spirit of the Southwest frames all of her work.
Unlike the more typical bold, geometric forms O’Keeffe undoubtedly pulled from her study of architecture and cityscapes, Cottonwood III embodies her departure to a softer, more naturalistic style. These yellow cottonwood trees, by the riverbed near Santa Fe’s Ghost Ranch—where O’Keeffe lived, served as the perfect subject upon which to exercise this departure.
O’Keefe pursued an alternative to the more traditional realism of her earlier studies. Through experimenting with charcoal drawings she was able to forge a new path to abstraction that served her well throughout her career. Although known internationally for her distinct flowers and the iconic, female-centric work, the Cottonwood series is, perhaps, more symbolic of the early influence of American Impressionism.