Georgia O'Keeffe's Jimson Weed is our flower art for February

Georgia O’Keeffe’s Jimson Weed – our flower art for February

We promised to share a piece of 20th century flower art with you every month during 2021.  Our February choice is Georgia O’Keeffe’s Jimson Weed/White Flower No. 1, painted in 1932.  O’Keeffe is well known for her flower paintings, capturing many different blooms on canvas.  This one of a humble garden weed turned out to be the most expensive painting sold at auction by a female artist when it was sold in 2014.

When Tate Modern held a major exhibition of her work in 2016, this painting was lent for the show.  In their press release, they called it ‘celebrated’ and ‘iconic’.  They also described it as one of the highlights of the exhibition.  They then discussed the importance of Jimson Weed in O’Keeffe’s work.  She allowed the plant to flourish around her home in New Mexico, and used it for multiple paintings, each one executed from a new viewpoint. The Tate explained how ‘the frontal perspective on the flower in Jimson Weed/White Flower No.1 1932 and the symmetry this gives the composition, makes it a particularly striking work in the series’.  They add that the painting ‘reveals the profound influence O’Keeffe took from modernist photography – its concern with the study of form, use of close up or magnification and cropping’.  This isn’t surprising given that she was married to photographer Alfred Stieglitz.

Beautiful in painting, but not in life

Don’t be fooled by the beauty of its blooms when seen in close-up as Georgia O’Keeffe painted them.  We certainly wouldn’t put it in a living wall, and we don’t encourage anyone to grow Jimson Weed in their gardens.  Known as Thorn Apple in the UK, the plant is a highly toxic member of the Solanaceae family.  Solanaceae includes both the potato and deadly nightshade.  You wouldn’t eat it accidentally, as it has several very obvious attributes.  These include the thorny seed casing that gives it its name.  However, if you want further information on avoiding it, click the following link to RHS Advice on Thorn Apple.

Luckily, looking at a painting doesn’t harm anyone.  This means we can continue to enjoy Georgia O’Keeffe’s Jimson Weed while steering clear of the real thing!