In her seventies, Georgia O’Keeffe traveled in an airplane for the first time and was fascinated at the view looking down on the earth and the clouds. Around 1963, working in Abiquiu, New Mexico, she began a series featuring endless expanses of clouds. Starting with a relatively realistic depiction of small white clouds on a three-by-four-foot canvas, she progressed to more stylized images of the motif on larger surfaces, ultimately extending her idea across a canvas that spanned the entire twenty-four-foot width of her garage in Sky above Clouds IV, the culmination of the series. The painting was scheduled for installation in a 1970 retrospective of O’Keeffe’s work at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the San Francisco Museum of Art. Sky above Clouds IV was never shown in San Francisco, however, because it could not fit through any door of the museum. The painting remained on loan to the Art Institute for more than a decade while the artist and public-minded collectors of her art arranged for it to become part of the permanent collection. This continued the special relationship between O’Keeffe and the Art Institute, which dates to 1905, when she was briefly a student at the School of the Art Institute; in 1943 her first museum retrospective was organized at the Art Institute. O’Keeffe presented the museum with an important group of modernist works, including a number of her own, in 1949, and she continued to make significant additions to this bequest until her death in 1986.
Barbara Buhler Lynes, “Georgia O’Keeffe: Catalogue Raisonné,” (National Gallery of Art/Georgia O’Keeffe Foundation/Yale University Press, 1999) no. 1498 (vol. 2).
Fort Worth, Amon Carter Museum of Western Art, Georgia O’Keeffe, Mar 17–May 8, 1966, as Above the Clouds IV no cat. no.
Whitney Museum of American Art, Georgia O’Keeffe Retrospective Exhibition, Oct 8–Nov 29, 1970; traveled to the Art Institute of Chicago, Jan 6–Feb 7, 1971; San Francisco Museum of Art, Mar 15–Apr 30, 1971, cat. 120, illus, cover (New York and Chicago only).
Washington DC, National Gallery of Art, Georgia O’Keeffe, Art and Letters, Nov 1, 1987–Feb 21, 1988; traveled to the Art Institute of Chicago, Mar 5–Jun 19, 1988; Dallas Museum of Art, Jul 31–Oct 16, 1988; Metropolitan Museum of Art, Nov 19, 1988–Feb 5, 1989, cat. 120 (Washington DC and Chicago only).