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Image of Wave, Night

Georgia O'Keeffe , (Nov 15, 1887–Mar 6, 1986)

Wave, Night

1928
30 in. x 36 in. (76.2 cm x 91.44 cm)

Medium and Support: Oil on canvas
Credit Line: Purchased as the gift of Charles L. Stillman (PA 1922)
Accession Number: 1947.33

Commentary

For Georgia O’Keeffe nature was the catalyst that inspired almost all of her paintings for more than seventy years. Observing her environment with a keen eye for color, shape and light, she was able to capture the realism of the scene. Yet there was also a modernist sensibility to her vision that allowed her to eliminate extraneous details, flatten space, and simplify the composition to its essence. In her work, ordinary objects and locations transcend specific time and place to assume a universal and iconic beauty.

Like many other artists of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries who vacationed in Maine including her good friend John Marin, O’Keeffe found new subject matter there for her art. The ocean itself was a major source of wonder and inspiration for O’Keeffe

By 1928, however, after several visits to York Beach. O'Keeffe felt ready to capture the vast, mysterious ocean in a large canvas. The extraordinary result was Wave, Night, a dramatic, nocturnal abstraction painted in inky blacks, deep blues. pinkish purples, and changing whites. The composition of the painting is starkly minimal and nearly symmetrical. Like O'Keeffe’s other abstractions of 1926–30, it emphasizes the interplay of point and line on a flat, two-dimensional plane. Many years later O'Keeffe recalled the experience: ''I loved running down the board walk to the ocean—watching the waves come in, spreading over the hard wet beach—the lighthouse steadily bright far over the waves in the evening when it was almost dark. This was one of the great events of the day.”

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In the spring of 1928, Georgia O’Keeffe vacationed at York Beach, Maine, about five miles south of Ogunquit. During this two-week stay, the ocean was a source of wonder and inspiration for the artist. Minimal yet dramatic, Wave, Night is a rare nocturnal seascape painted in inky blacks, deep blues, and pinkish purples. O’Keeffe later recalled the experience, “I loved running down the board walk to the ocean—watching the waves come in, spreading over the hard wet beach—the lighthouse steadily bright far over the waves in the evening when it was almost dark. This was one of the great events of the day.”

Jaime DeSimone
Charles H. Sawyer Curatorial Fellow

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