Palo Duro Canyon paintings of O'Keeffe

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Red Landscape, oil on board, 1916–1917, Panhandle–Plains Historical Museum, West Texas A&M University
No. 20 Special, oil on board, 17 38 in × 13 12 in (44 cm × 34 cm), 1916–1917, Milwaukee Art Museum
No. 22 - Special, oil on board, 1916–1917, Georgia O'Keeffe Museum
Canyon with Crows, watercolor and graphite on paper, 8 34 in × 12 in (22 cm × 30 cm), 1917, Georgia O'Keeffe Museum

Georgia O'Keeffe made a set of paintings of Palo Duro Canyon while working as a department head and art instructor at West Texas State Normal College. The vibrant paintings reflect her development as an Abstract Expressionist, influenced by Arthur Wesley Dow.


While working at West Texas State Normal College between 1916 and 1918, O'Keeffe lived in Canyon, Texas and often visited Palo Duro Canyon, which became a source of inspiration for her paintings that helped her develop as an abstract artist.[1] She made 51 watercolors while living in Canyon. Carolyn Kastner, curator of "Georgia O'Keeffe’s Far Wide Texas", states that "she was at the peak of her commitment to abstraction" at that time.[2]

Georgia O'Keeffe and friends at the Palo Duro Club, at the head of Palo Duro Canyon, perhaps between 1912 and 1913, when she first went to Texas, or between 1916 and 1918.[3]

Now a state park, it is the second largest canyon in the United States and is called the "Grand Canyon of Texas".[4][5] The canyon is 800 feet (240 m) deep, up to 20 miles (32 km) wide, and 120 miles (190 km) long.[4] Within the canyon are rock formations, giant boulders, and hoodoos. There are also multicolored layers of white gypsum, bright red claystone, and lavender, gray, yellow ochre mudstone. She had said that this time in Texas was highly creative, one where she felt the freedom to explore her feelings and different forms.[1]

O'Keeffe traveled to Palo Duro Canyon, 12 miles (19 km) from Canyon, with friends, on farmer's hay wagons,[1] or by walking the distance.[4]


Inspired by the principles of Arthur Wesley Dow and the Texas landscape, O'Keeffe made paintings using vibrant red, blue and yellow colors.[5] About 1916, she used brilliant red and yellow colors in Special #21: Palo Duro Canyon, which belongs to the New Mexico Museum of Art. It was stolen in December 2003 and has not been recovered.[5] Red Landscape is an abstract expressionist oil painting made in 1916–1917 of the bright red canyon walls,[1] which are the Permian Red Beds from the Jurassic era. A yellow sun shines below a dark sky.[6] Canyon with Crows, a watercolor made in 1917, "depicts a deep purple arroyo that lightens higher to yellows and orange while impressionistic black crows hover in a pale blue sky."[6]

McNay Art Museum in San Antonio held the "O'Keeffe and Texas" exhibit, curated by art historian Sharyn Udall in 1998 show.[6] In 2016, the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum exhibited some of the works from Palo Duro Canyon in the "Georgia O'Keeffe’s Far Wide Texas" exhibit, the theme of which was "Becoming a Modern Artist".[5] It was curated by Carolyn Kastner. The Georgia O’Keeffe: Watercolors 1916-1918 catalog, with more than 40 full-scale reproductions, accompanied the exhibit.[2][5]


  1. ^ a b c d Kathryn Jones (November 2013). "Georgia O'Keeffe: Canyon and Sky". Texas Highways magazine. Retrieved January 17, 2017.
  2. ^ a b Karen Wada (August 2, 2016). "Georgia O'Keeffe's early watercolor paintings: Vivid, free-wheeling and full of surprise". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 17, 2017.
  3. ^ Tim Hone (March 27, 2015). "O'Keeffe and the Palo Duro Club". Georgia O'Keeffe Museum. Retrieved January 17, 2017.
  4. ^ a b c Kathleen Scott (January 13, 2011). "Georgia O'Keeffe found a muse in Palo Duro Canyon". Chron, of Houston Chronicle. Retrieved January 17, 2017.
  5. ^ a b c d e Michael Abatemarco (April 29, 2016). "Birth of the abstract: Georgia O'Keeffe in Amarillo". Santa Fe New Mexican. Retrieved January 18, 2017.
  6. ^ a b c Don Oko (October 2007). "O'Keeffes Canyon". Texas Parks & Wildlife. Retrieved January 17, 2017.

Further reading[edit]

  • Paul H. Carlson; John T. Becker (2012). Georgia O'Keeffe in Texas: a guide. Buffalo Gap, Texas: State House Press. ISBN 1933337494.
  • Georgia O'Keeffe; Amy von Lintel (text) (2016). Watercolors: 1916-1918. Radius Books and Georgia O'Keeffe Museum. ISBN 9781942185048.
  • Fred Stoker (1990). Georgia O'Keeffe and Texas. Canyon, Texas: Hunnicutt & Sons Printing. ASIN B00260RTKG – via Cornette Library, West Texas A&M University.
  • Sharyn R. Udall; Harry N. Abrams (1998). O'Keeffe and Texas. San Antonio, Texas: Marion Koogler McNay Art Museum. ISBN 0810963566.