Black Cross, New Mexico

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Georgia O'Keeffe
American, 1887-1986

Black Cross, New Mexico, 1929

Oil on canvas
99.1 x 76.2 cm (39 x 30 in.)
Art Institute Purchase Fund, 1943.95

© The Art Institute of Chicago

“I saw the crosses so often—and often in unexpected places—like a thin dark veil of the Catholic Church spread over the New Mexico landscape,” said Georgia O’Keeffe about her first visit to Taos, New Mexico, in the summer of 1929. A member of the circle of avant-garde artists who exhibited at Alfred Stieglitz’s gallery 291 in New York, O’Keeffe had married the progressive photographer and dealer in 1924. What she encountered during late-night walks in the desert and then transformed into Black Cross, New Mexico were probably crosses erected near remote moradas, or chapels, by secret Catholic lay brotherhoods called Penitentes. As this pioneer of American Modernism approached all of her subjects, whether buildings or flowers, landscapes or bones, here O’Keeffe magnified shapes and simplified details to underscore their essential beauty. She painted the cross just as she saw it: “big and strong, put together with wooden pegs,” and behind it, “those hills . . . [that] go on and on—it was like looking at two miles of gray elephants.” For O’Keeffe, “painting the crosses was a way of painting the country,” a beloved region where, in 1949, she settled permanently and worked almost until her death at the age of ninety-eight.

— Entry, Essential Guide, 2013, p. 55.

Exhibition, Publication and Ownership Histories

Exhibition History

New York, An American Place, New Paintings: New Mexico, New York, Lake George, 1930, no. 14.

Art Institute of Chicago, Georgia O’Keefe, 1943, cat. by Daniel Catton Rich, p. 30, p. 28, (ill.)

New York, Museum of Modern Art, Romantic Painting in America, 1943, cat. by James Thrall Soby and Dorothy C. Miller, no. 157.

New York, Museum of Modern Art, Georgia O’Keeffe, May 14-August 25, 1946, no cat.

New York, Wildenstein Gallery, Landmarks in American Art, 1670-1950, February 26-March 28, 1953, no. 48 ill.

Lake Forest, Ill., Durand Art Institute, Lake Forest College, A Century of American Painting: Masterpieces Loaned by the Art Institute of Chicago, June 10-16, 1957, cat. 21.

Fort Worth, Texas, Amon Carter Museum of Western Art, Georgia O’Keeffe: An Exhibition of the Work of the Artist from 1915 to 1966, March 17-May 8, 1966, cat. by Mitchell A. Wilder, p. 29; traveled to Houston Museum of Fine Arts, May 17-July 1966.

New York, Whitney Museum, Georgia O’Keeffe, October 8-November 29, 1970; cat. by Lloyd Goodrich and Doris Bry, p. 18, no. 63; traveled to the Art Institute of Chicago, January 1-February 7, 1971; San Francisco Museum of Art, March 15-April 30, 1971.

Denver Art Museum, Picturesque Images from Taos and Santa Fe, January 12-March 17, 1974, cat. by Pat Trenton, p. 161, no. 15.

Santa Fe, New Mexico, Governor’s Gallery, State Capitol Building, Georgia O’Keefe, April 27-May 25, 1975, no. cat.

San Antonio, Texas, Marion Koogler McNay Art Institute, Georgia O’Keeffe, October 24-November 30, 1975, no cat.

New York, Museum of Modern Art, The Natural Paradise: Painting in America 1800-1950, September 29-November 30, 1976, no. 119 ill.

Chicago, School of the Art Institute, 100 Artists-100 Years, November 23, 1979-January 20, 1980, no. 75, ill. p. 45.

Washington, D.C., National Gallery of Art, Georgia O’Keeffe: Arts and Letters, November 1, 1987-February 21, 1988; cat. by Jack Cowart, Juan Hamilton, Sarah Greenough, no. 73; traveled to the Art Institute of Chicago, March 5-June 19, 1988; Dallas Museum of Art, July 13-October 16, 1988; New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, November 19, 1988-February 5, 1989.

Publication History

Mable Dodge Luhan, “Georgia O’Keefe in Taos,” Creative Art, 8, 6 (June 6, 1931) p. 406 ill.

“The Paintings of Georgia O’Keefe in Taos,” Atelier, 101, (June 1931), p. 440 ill.

Waldo Frank, Lewis Mumford, Dorothy Norman, et al. eds., America and Alfred Stieglitz, (New York: The Literary Guild, 1934), pl. XXB.

Daniel Catton Rich, “Exhibition of Paintings by Georgia O’Keeffe,” Bulletin of the Art Institute of Chicago, 37, 2 (1943), pp. 17-20.

Time, vol. Xlvii, 21 (May 1946), p. 75.

Mabel Dodge Luhan, Taos and Its Artists (New York: Duell, Sloan and Pearce, 1947).

Denys Sutton, American Painting (London: Avalon Press, 1948), p. 27, pl. 46.

Journal of the American Association of University Women, 45, 2 (1952). Inside front cover.

“Georgia O’Keeffe: Landscape of the Mind,” Bulletin of The Art Institute of Chicago Bulletin, 64, 5 (November 1970).

John Russell, “Roots of U.S. Abstract Painting,” New York Times, September 30, 1975, p. 34.

Ron White, “Georgia O’Keeffe: Landscape of the Mind,” San Antonio Express-News, November 9, 1975, p. 7H ill.

Georgia O’Keeffe, Georgia O’Keeffe, New York: A Studio Book, Viking Press, 1976, pl. 64.

Robert Hughes, “Eyeball and Earthly Paradise,” Time (October 1976).

Frederick A. Horowitz, More Than You See: A Guide to Art (Fort Worth, London: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1992).

Elizabeth Montgomery, Georgia O’Keeffe, (New York: Barnes and Noble, 1983), p. 118 ill.

Mich.ke Venezia, Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Artists: Georgia O’Keeffe (Chicago: Children’s Press, 1993).

Mary Ann Calif.ws and Christopher Prendergast, The HarperCollins World Reader (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1994.

Charles C. Eldridge, Georgia O’Keefe: American and Modern (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1993, p. 199, fig. 20.

Arnold Skolnick, ed., Paintings of the Southwest (New York: Clarkson, Potter Publishers, 1994, p. 13 ill.

Patricia Trenton, Sandra D’Emilio, Independent Spirits: Women Painters of the American West, 1890-1945 (Autry Museum of Western Heritage/University of California Press, 1995).

Henry W. Peacock, Art as Expression (Washington, D.C.: Whalesback Books, 1995).

David Frankel, Masterpieces: The Best-Loved Paintings from America’s Museums (New York: Simon & Schuster).

Art Institute of Chicago, The Art Institute of Chicago: Twentieth-Century Painting and Sculpture, selected by James N. Wood and Teri J. Edelstein (Art Institute of Chicago, 1996), p. 64, ill.

Susan Wright, Georgia O’Keefe: An Eternal Spirit (New York: Todtri, 1996).

Robert Hughes, American Visions: The Epic History of Art in America (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1997).

Richard H. Robbins, Cultural Anthropology: A Problem-Based Approach (Itasca, Illinois: F.E. Peacock Publishers, 1997).

Delia Gaze, Dictionary of Women Artists (London, Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn Publisher, 1997).

Bram Dijkstra, Georgia O’Keefe and the Eros of Place, (Princeton University Press, 1998).

Karen Stone, The Visual World: Finding Spiritual Meaning in Art (Cleveland, Ohio: Pilgrim Press, 1999).

Barbara Buhler Lynes, Georgia O’Keefe: Catalogue Raisonné Volume One (New Haven and London: Yale University Press/ National Gallery of Art/the Georgia O’Keeffe Foundation, 1999), no. 667.

Judith A. Barter et al., "American Modernism at the Art Institute of Chicago, From World War I to 1955," (Art Institute of Chicago/Yale University Press, 2009), cat. 67.

Ownership History

An American Place, New York, by 1943; sold to the Art Institute, 1943.