O'Keeffe had painted flowers ever since taking her first art classes in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, where she was born in 1887 and raised on a prosperous farm. After taking courses at the Art Institute of Chicago and the Art Students League in New York, O'Keeffe taught art at colleges in South Carolina and Texas before moving to Manhattan to live with Stieglitz. While she had painted flowers, she considered herself a modern artist and often pursued abstract art. It was not until 1924 that she enlarged a blossom to an optic extreme.
Influenced by the photography of Paul Strand, who also showed at Stieglitz's galleries, O'Keeffe tumbled onto the notion of viewing a flower as if she were looking through the viewfinder of a camera. She enlarged the face of the flower to fill the entire canvas so that the edge of the petal, the fluff of the stamen, and the variations in color - all could be seen clearly. In part, she painted them as a protest against the pace of life in New York City where she lived that prevented people from taking time to really look at a flower. O'Keeffe explained:
Nobody sees a flower - really - it is so small - we haven't time - and to see takes time like to have a friend takes timeâ¦So I said to myself â¦I'll paint it big and they will be surprised into taking time to look at it, ”