The American painter Georgia O’Keeffe (November 1887-March 1986) was a pioneering ‘Modernist.’ Her unique approach defied all the accepted norms of painting and gave a new definition to the ‘American Modern Art.’ Owing to her competence, American Art attained fame and recognition in creatively competent Europe. Flowers fascinated Georgia and they were her favorite subject on canvas. O’Keeffe painted “Oriental Poppies” in 1928. This stunning work was declared a groundbreaking, art masterpiece.
Georgia O’Keeffe described her painting as a product of what she perceived in her mind and felt in her heart. In “Oriental Poppies,” she depicts two giant poppy flowers. Measuring 30″ x 40″, this oil painting is an explosion of brilliant colors on a vast canvas, lending a mesmerizing effect. O’Keefe used dazzling red and orange as the main color of the petals. The hollowed centre and the inner contours of the flowers are painted in deep purple. The skillful shading and velvety finish of the petals accentuates the vibrancy of the flowers. “Oriental Poppies” almost looks like a close up photograph. O’Keeffe did not give any background to the painting, to artfully draw focus onto the flowers. The absence of context in the painting presents them in a new light as pure abstracts. “Oriental Poppies” exudes a startling pull, as if casting a hypnotic spell on the viewer.
Georgia O’Keeffe believed that due to the fast-paced lives people live, they merely glance at flowers, but never really observed their exquisiteness. She wished to give such rushing people experience and the feel of the true beauty of flowers. In her words, “If I could paint the flower exactly as I see it no one would see what I see because I would paint it small like the flower is small. So I said to myself – I’ll paint what I see – what the flower is to me but I’ll paint it big and they will be surprised into taking time to look at it – I will make even busy New Yorkers take time to see what I see of flowers.” O’Keeffe chose to paint on a huge canvas with an outburst of bold colors, to astonish the viewers and to introduce them to the wonder of nature. In her bid, she managed to capture the essence of poppies with eloquence.
Many art researchers believed that O’Keeffe’s “Oriental Poppies” was an answer to the zoomed in technique adapted by Alfred Stieglitz in ‘Modern Photography.’ The magnificent painting speaks volumes of O’Keefe’s talent and artistic vision. Georgia’s delightful representation of two ordinary flowers generated widespread admiration and was considered as one of her most memorable works. It is now a part of a collection at the University of Minnesota Art Museum, Minneapolis.