Hang around a museum long enough and you start to make little jumps and connections—that pop into your head at random times—about works of art you see every day. My latest mini-epiphany was the realization that some of the largest works in the museum’s collections were created by artists late in their careers and lives, signaling that expansion might be a product of age.
For example, the largest painting in the museum’s collection is Georgia O’Keeffe’s Sky Above Clouds IV. O’Keeffe painted this 24 by 8 foot behemoth in the garage of her home in Abiquiu, New Mexico. Although it was created in 1965, it was inspired by the many cross country trips the artist took between New Mexico and New York in the 1950s. About the painting, O’Keeffe said:
"it kept me working every minute from six a.m. till eight or nine at night as I had to be finished before it was cold—I worked in the garage and it had no heat—Such a size is ridiculous but I had it in my head as something I wanted to do for a couple of years so I finally got at it and had a fine time—and there it is . . ."
O’Keeffe stood on a variety of objects (a ladder, a chair) to paint the higher portions of the painting. She was 77 at the time.
And coming in at 54 feet long and 14 feet high, Ellsworth Kelly’s White Curve is the largest piece that the 87-year-old artist has ever created. The painted aluminum sculpture was commissioned especially for the Modern Wing and hangs in Pritzker Garden. You can check out a video of the installation of this monumental sculpture here. And with a visit to Gallery 296B, you can experience over five decades of Kelly’s work, beginning with Tableau Vert, Kelly’s 1952 homage to Monet’s water lilies, given as a gift by the artist to the museum on the occasion of the opening of the Modern Wing.