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Jimson Weed
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Leave it to Georgia O’Keeffe to make weeds beautiful.

When we think of Georgia O’Keeffe, we typically think of flowers that resemble vaginas, not of ugly weeds. But the story of Jimson Weed is kind of like the story of the “Ugly Duckling”-- nobody expected jimson weeds, which typically look like unattractive and prickly seed pods, to be beautiful- but turns out, they’re actually super gorgeous when they bloom at night. It’s just that most people aren’t patient enough to wait for beauty. Thankfully, Georgia O’Keeffe is.

O’Keeffe first discovered the jimson weeds in her Abiquiu garden, since the plants are native in the Southwest. Like any good garden owner, she tried to dig them up when she discovered that jimson weeds, also known as devil’s snare (not to be confused with the weird vine things in Harry Potter), are dangerously poisonous. But she found them nearly impossible to kill- they are weeds, after all. She then decided to ignore their toxicity in favor of their beauty and intoxicating scent and let them proceed to proliferate in her garden. We can only imagine how many cups of coffee O’Keeffe drank to stay up and see her jimson weeds bloom just so she could paint them.

O’Keeffe depicted jimson weeds in her artwork several times. This painting was originally a series of three separate pieces brought together as one whole painting. A sort of floral triptych or movable mural, if you will. At 6x7ft, Jimson Weed was the largest artwork she had ever completed at the time. Originally titled Miracle Flower, the painting was commissioned by makeup mogul Elizabeth Arden for her new spa and gymnasium in New York. The intention was to place it in the mirrored exercise room where guests could appreciate the artwork while they partook in activities like fencing, ping pong, and tennis. Arden purchased the massive painting for $10,000 in 1936, and the artwork was so well-received that O’Keeffe was commissioned to create the same piece- this time without leaves- as an etched glass design for Steuben Glass.  

In 1971, the Arden firm was acquired by Eli Lilly & Company, a pharmaceutical company responsible for the mass-production of insulin and Prozac, and the painting was donated to the Indianapolis Museum of Art in 1987 when the company was sold once again to Faberge. In 2014, an identical painting titled Jimson Weed/White Flower No. 1 (1932) was sold for a record-breaking $44,000,000 to Alice Walton, daughter of Walmart founder Sam Walton, for her Crystal Bridges Museum in Arkansas. This Jimson Weed painting is now the most expensive artwork ever sold by a female artist, making Georgia O’Keeffe the highest-selling woman in art history. So instead of pulling up weeds, maybe we should try painting them.
 

Sources

Sources

  1. Lisa Mintz Messinger, Georgia O’Keeffe (London: Thames & Hudson World of Art Ltd, 2001)
  2. Elizabeth Hutton Turner, Georgia O'Keeffe: The Poetry of Things (New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 1987)
  3. Benita Eisler, O’Keeffe and Stieglitz: An American Romance (New York: Doubleday, 1991)
  4. Sarah Cascone, “Alice Walton’s Crystal Bridges Boght Georgia O’Keefe Painting for Record $44 Million.” ArtNet New

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Here is what Wikipedia says about Jimson Weed (painting)

Jimson Weed is an oil on linen painting by American artist Georgia O'Keeffe from 1936, located in the Indianapolis Museum of Art, which is in Indianapolis, Indiana, United States. It depicts four large blossoms of jimson weed. A similar work by O'Keeffe, Jimson Weed/White Flower No. 1, was sold by the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum at auction to Walmart heiress Alice Walton in 2014 for $44,405,000, more than tripling the previous world record for auction price of a piece by a female artist.

Check out the full Wikipedia article about Jimson Weed (painting).