What this blog is really about is to dive deeper into the popular artist Georgia O’Keeffe and her relationship with abstraction and Kandinsky. So how did a typical artist of the time even begin to dare to let go of ‘reality’ and think abstract?
O’Keeffe continued with her abstract charcoal drawings, but gradually extended her experimentation with watercolor. She began by using blue.
Blue Lines, was painted with a japanese brush. Dow’s instruction on how to use the brush is almost a description of her painting.
Begin with straight lines; remember that straightness in the direction is the important thing, not only geometrical straightness. Light waves are alright; they often give character to the line.
O’Keeffe; Blue Lines, 1916
Strong and straight the thin, elegant lines rise out of something that can be imagined to be a deep blue mold. They run close and parallell vertically upwards, somewhat to the right of an imagined middle, until they reach two thirds of the paper. The line closest to the middle takes off from the intimate contact and turns sharply to the left and downwards in a 45 degree angle, passes the imagined horizon, before it rises again. The lines relate to each other in a very living way and there is a proud humility in the simple and clean.
The line is a force… It derives power from the energy of him who drew it.
Van de Velde
Followers of Freud interpreted both forms in O’Keeffe’s painting as the contradictory forces of the soul and one art historian saw them as the antipodes in eastern and western philosophies.
Many German artists considered blue to be a spiritual color, and Kandinsky finds that the blue contains deep meaning. The blue O’Keeffe used in this painting approaches black, which is a nuance Kandinsky considered to be the color of deep sorrow.
It is not difficult to find reasons to why she would feel the inner need to express personal sorrow. Georgia’s mother died in the beginning of May of 1916.