More about East River from the Thirtieth Story of the Shelton Hotel
A panoramic piece from Georgia O’Keeffe’s urban goth phase.
When you think of Georgia O'Keeffe, the first image that comes to mind tends to be the large-scale, abstracted, and vividly colored paintings of vaguely yonic flowers. This isn’t one of them. East River was the last and largest piece of a collection of twenty-five paintings and drawings devoted to the New York skyline, grey and cold in contrast to the vivid warmth of O’Keeffe’s floral work. It was also the epilogue to a ten-year stay in New York City that started in 1918 with Alfred Stieglitz, her lifelong partner with whom she had a deep, long, and very troubled relationship with.
At the time, O’Keeffe was the sole woman to exhibit at 291, a gallery dominated by European male powerhouses such as Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso. If there was ever an opportunity to create a space for women in art and deliver a blow to the nads of the patriarchy, O’Keeffe found it. Her prints were able to fetch prices of up to $25,000 at one point, equivalent to $200,000 in today’s dollar value. No other female artist reached her level at the time. Stieglitz was instrumental to this success as the owner of 291 and her biggest supporter and promoter, putting her into twenty-two solo exhibitions and many more group exhibits until his death in 1946.
In 1927, O’Keeffe endured a bout with breast cancer and an introduction to Dorothy Norman, a woman to whom she took an instant dislike for a very valid reason. Dorothy Norman eventually caught Stieglitz’s sexual advances. One incident involved him asking if her breasts had enough milk to feed her baby. Shortly after he brushed his fingertips against her nipples, which Norman offered no resistance towards. Smooth move, Al. Mind you, both parties were married and Norman just recently gave birth to a daughter. Jeez, Alfred, you didn’t have to come and be a homewrecker. And O’Keeffe was still undergoing treatment for her cancer while it happened! Imagine if the "Jerry Springer Show" was around back in 1928…
By 1929, Georgia O’Keeffe made the first of her trips to New Mexico and left the gray skies and skyscrapers behind, much in part to the stock market crash. The rest, as the adage goes, is history.
- Drohojowska-Philp, Hunter. Full Bloom: The Art and Life of Georgia O'Keeffe. W. W. Norton & Company, New York City, 2005.
- "Georgia O'Keeffe." New Britain Museum of American Art. Accessed August 27, 2018. http://www.nbmaa.org/original-site-assets/timeline_highlights/essays/ok….
- "Georgia O'Keeffe." The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Accessed August 27, 2018. https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/geok/hd_geok.htm.