American artist Georgia O’Keeffe (1887–1986) painted seashells like no one else. A key figure in the early 20th century movement called “modernism”, she rejected the traditional ways of representing reality. But she had her own inimitable style. For inspiration, she did not turn to the industrial world, as many modernist artists did, but to Nature.
O’Keeffe simplified the natural forms of seashells, transforming them into something close to, but not exactly, abstract art. She remained faithful to what was real. Her use of lines and colours was bold and imaginative; it spoke of her free spirit. The colours were marked by subtle gradations, which conveyed a sense of voluptuousness and delicacy.
“Objective painting is not good painting unless it is good in the abstract sense.” O’Keeffe wrote. “A hill or a tree cannot make a good painting just because it is a hill or a 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 the most definite form for the intangible thing in myself that I can only clarify in paint.”
Red Hill and White Shell, 1938, by Georgia O’Keeffe
Shell No. I, 1928, by Georgia O’Keeffe
Shell No 2, 1928, by Georgia O’Keeffe
Pink Shell with Seaweed, 1937, by Georgia O’Keeffe
Slightly Open Clam Shell, 1926, by Georgia O’Keeffe