In Grey &/ Brown Leaves from 1929, O’Keeffe has placed a large greyish brown leaf frontally centered, on top of a warm brown leaf. She has played with color perspective and switched its logic, so that the warm, yellow and close tone is behind the rather cool, distant brown nuance in the leaf in the foreground.
O’Keeffe: Grey & Brown Leaves, 1929
The whole tree itself is but one leaf, and rivers are still vaster leaves whose pulp is intervening earth…
Henri David Thoreau
Turner brings up the idea that leaves could be self-portraits. Stieglitz was inspired by the New York Dada movement and he encouraged the artists in the circle to create abstract self-portraits or images of emotion. Another factor that may speak to the fact that both leaves, trees and flowers are symbolical portraits, is that O’Keeffe in these motifs often, perhaps always, chose the portrait format and she also often isolated the motif from its surroundings.
Art critic Lewis Mumford described the effect watching O’Keeffe’s leaves had on him, in a letter:
When I reached the lowest depths of winter depression last week, lying in bed with a sore throat, I asked Sophie to put your picture (that of the flaming and somber oak leaves) in front of me so I could see it: and I swear that it aided my recovery, giving me an assurance that life was somewhere, if not in me!
If brown, beige and grey nuances of leaves could inspire depressed and sick people, what about clear and strong colors?
O’Keeffe: Autumn Leaves, 1924
Kandinsky describes the psychological functions, psychic and psychological effects and chromatherapy in his book. Chromatherapy is a way to use color to influence the body and is thought to be able to treat several ailments and diseases. According to Kandinsky, a warm red is stimulating and makes the heart beat faster, for example, while another red tone can produce a feeling of discomfort, if associated with blood.
O’Keeffe: Brown and Tan Leaves, 1928