Narcissa’s Last Orchid (1940)

O’Keeffe, Georgia (1887-1986)

Narcissa’s Last Orchid
Pastel, 54.5 x 69.1 cm
Princeton University Art MuseumPrinceton

Here, O’Keeffe exploits the directness and tactility of drawing in pastel, using her finger to massage the color into the paper to create painterly effects. She first used pastel at the New York Art Students League in 1907–8. The orchid pictured was a gift to O’Keeffe from her friend Narcissa Swift King, who, offended she was not thanked, declared, “That’s the last orchid you’ll ever get from me!” Nevertheless, the two women remained friendly. O’Keeffe had previously likened perceiving a flower to nurturing a friendship: “Still—in a way— nobody sees a flower—really—it is so small—we haven’t time— and to see takes time like to have a friend takes time.” (PUAM)