Early O’Keeffe watercolors to go on view at The Fralin Museum of Art

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Georgia O’Keeffe. Anything , 1916. Oil on Board, 20 x 15 3/4 inches. Georgia O’Keeffe Museum. Gift of The Georgia O’Keeffe Foundation. © Georgia O’Keeffe Museum. [2006.5.29]

The Fralin Museum of Art at the University of Virginia presents Unexpected O’Keeffe: The Virginia Watercolors and Later Paintings, on view Oct. 19, 2018-Jan. 27, 2019. This rare exhibition explores Georgia O’Keeffe’s watercolor studies produced during her time at the University of Virginia (UVA) in the summers from 1912 to 1916, and will include several key sketches and paintings as well as other works demonstrating her developing style. This is the first time the watercolors have been on view outside the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

“It is an honor and a thrill to bring Georgia O’Keeffe’s works created in and around the University of Virginia back to UVA for the first time since they were produced,” said Matthew McLendon, J. Sanford Miller Family director at The Fralin. “Visitors will be able to walk out of the gallery and find the same points-of-view O’Keeffe used; they can experience the same qualities of light.”

Unexpected O’Keeffe: The Virginia Watercolors and Later Paintings emphasizes an understudied period of the artist’s development. While in Charlottesville, O’Keeffe displayed an early attraction to modernism and abstraction, using her surroundings on the Grounds of UVA to investigate simplified and refined compositions. During her time at UVA, O’Keeffe showed a dramatic shift to the ideas of modernism. In 1912 she took a summer course taught by Alon Bement who introduced her to the revolutionary ideas of Arthur Wesley Dow, his colleague. Dow encouraged imagination and self-expression versus literal interpretation.

“Among the first college trained artists of her generation, O’Keeffe spent five total summers at UVA starting as a student (1912) and then returning as an instructor (1913-1916). It was a time of personal awakening that set her on a new path of abstraction and practice of drawing leading to her own radical pictorial invention,” said Elizabeth Hutton Turner, professor of modern art at the University of Virginia. “Here she was first introduced to exercises equating line and vision in Arthur Wesley Dow’s ‘Book of Composition.’ O’Keeffe’s method of dividing and filling compositional space begun in Charlottesville forms the basis for the mature works that many already know and admire. What people will be surprised to learn is how it all began in Charlottesville.”

The exhibition is a catalyst for new scholarship on this period in O’Keeffe’s life through a graduate seminar led by Turner. “The university museum at its foundation is a laboratory for student learning and engagement,” said McLendon.

Unexpected O’Keeffe: The Virginia Watercolors and Later Paintings is organized by McLendon and Turner with works on loan from the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, The Phillips Collection, and the Museum of Fine Arts St. Petersburg.

Established in 1935, the University of Virginia Art Museum became The Fralin Museum of Art in 2012, in honor of a bequest of American art and service to the University by Cynthia and W. Heywood Fralin. The Museum maintains a collection of nearly 14,000 works of art, including American and European painting, works on paper and sculpture from the 15th through the 20th centuries; art from the ancient Mediterranean; Asian art; and Native American art. Housed in the historic Bayly Building near the Rotunda on the landmark UVA Grounds, The Fralin is dedicated to serving the widest possible audiences and engaging comprehensive visual education to enhance its visitors’ understanding of world cultures. Throughout the year the Museum presents a diverse selection of exhibitions, programs, research and events that bring the University and broader community together.

For more information, visit http://uvafralinartmuseum. virginia.edu.

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