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Jack-in-the-Pulpit No. IV

Artist: Georgia O'Keeffe
Created: 1930
Dimensions (cm): 76.2 x 101.6
Format: Oil on canvas
Location: Alfred Stieglitz Collection, Bequest of Georgia O'Keeffe

Georgia O’keeffe, when in high school, painted a Jack in the Pulpit, discovering that an object from the natural world might correspond to her own artistic and emotional needs.  O’keeffe set the stage for her later famous flower paintings (among which included Jack in the Pulpit IV) which would secure her reputation among the first rank of American artists.

It was in 1930 that Georgia O’keeffe painted a series of six paintings depicting a Jack in the Pulpit.  The series begins with a beautiful hooded flower head kept by a botanist’s care, continues with consecutive depictions of more abstract blooms and ends up with a black pistil standing alone against a black, purple and gray background.

Jack in the Pulpit No. IV represents a midpoint in this process of increasing detail and abstraction.  It reveals a process of abstracting from nature by which an image beginning realistically, slightly dislodges toward a condition of absolute extremity, as in the case with these six paintings.

In Jack in the Pulpit No. IV, O’keeffe abstracts the flower through scale and close up until its form fill the entire space with an allover pattern.  She uses the flower not only to fill the space with shape, but also to speak to us metamorphically, suggesting growth and regeneration. In her painting, O’keeffe was also exploring sexuality through isolated parts of the flower such as the sexually suggestive stamens of the bloom.

O’keeffe is arguably the first American to develop an abstracting style that derived through close observation of nature rather than fantasy.


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