The art of reinvention is a delicate dance, often spurred by the need to maneuver away from the formula that has always worked. For painter Georgia O’Keeffe, the loss of her eye sight at the age of eighty-five paralyzed any ability to take brush to canvas. Outside inspiration from an unlikely source and a new medium set the stage for her renaissance as an artist, recognized by Sotheby’s at an upcoming auction titled Alfred Stieglitz, Georgia O’Keeffe, Juan Hamilton: Passage. Art history buffs and decorative arts collectors alike will be delighted with the sale’s offerings.
Included in the auction are six pieces of pottery by O’Keeffe, all created a year after a chance meeting with her longtime confidante and assistant, Juan Hamilton. A handyman house call to her New Mexico studio would bring the two together, although not pleasantly at first. A then 27-year-old Hamilton was accompanying a plumber friend to O’Keeffe’s and she was not keen on unannounced guests. Months later, Hamilton would stop by the studio again looking for work and, this time, O’Keeffe obliged. Helping to pack a shipping crate that day would pave the way for a meaningful bond between artists.
In addition to his tasks as an assistant, it is presumed that Hamilton—a ceramicist—also ignited a passion for pottery within O’Keeffe. The pair shared a close relationship for a decade before her passing in 1986. Much of her estate, including artifacts belonging to her late husband Alfred Stieglitz, was left to Hamilton. The Sotheby’s sale will offer over 100 lots from Hamilton’s inherited collection with artwork of his own peppered in.
Significant photography by Stieglitz and paintings, drawings, and sculpture by O’Keeffe will be up for grabs during the March auction. Personal effects of O’Keeffe’s, such as a collection of recipe cards and address book, make for especially exciting bids. The standouts, however, are her lacquered bronze and stoneware pieces which will likely fetch much more than their estimates ranging from $8,000 to $15,000. Exhibition times in New York City present an opportunity to view the sought after items between February 26th and March 4th. Registered bidders will have the chance to own a piece of art history beginning March 5th with advanced, online, telephone, and in-person bids being accepted. Have your virtual paddles ready!
If you’re as fascinated by Georgia O’Keeffe as I am, you may enjoy this post I wrote about her years at Lake George. This time in her life is not widely written about and it was a treat to learn intimate details about O’Keeffe’s pull to this particular place and the art she created there.
A special thanks to my brilliant friend at Sotheby’s, Elizabeth Donaldson, for sending me the details of this sale! (All images courtesy of Sotheby’s.)