The Lawrence Tree (1929)

O’Keeffe, Georgia (1887-1986)

The Lawrence Tree (D.H. Lawrence Pine Tree)
Oil on canvas, 78.7 x 101.6 cm
Wadsworth AtheneumHartford

Curatorial Narrative: O’Keeffe found endless beauty and inspiration in nature, from coastlines in the Northeast to the desert in the Southwest. She excelled in close-up depitions of shells, plants, flowers, and bones. Experimenting with scale and perspective, her pictures often feel abstract, rather than realistic. On her first trip to Taos, New Mexico, O’Keeffe visited the ranch of the writer D.H. Lawrence. There, she painted this Ponderosa pine tree, the same tree Lawrence sat under, writing from a simple carpenter’s bench. Lying on the same bench, O’Keeffe presents us with a view of the trunk and branches silhouetted against the night sky.

Collection Catalog Narrative: This dreamlike composition was inspired by a tree on the property of the English novelist, D. H. Lawrence, who lived briefly in New Mexico. Lawrence was known to lie at the base of the trunk to look at the branches silhouetted against the night sky. Georgia O’Keeffe painted many symbolic portraits of individuals she knew and admired, including this composition. She visited Lawrence’s ranch to experience the same unusual perspective beneath this fabled Ponderosa pine. O’Keeffe was a prominent member of the group of modernist artists promoted by legendary New York photographer and dealer Alfred Stieglitz, whom she married in 1924. She excelled in painting abstractions based on nature such as trees, plants, shells, and bones. When the Wadsworth Atheneum acquired this painting from the artist, she confirmed its ambiguous orientation. At one point it was installed with the trunk emerging from the lower edge. It is presently shown, in keeping with her earlier preference, as it is oriented here, allowing the viewer to experience the artist’s favored vantage point. (WA)

See also:

Lawrence, D.H. (1885-1930)