Red Poppy, 1927 by Georgia OKeeffe

Georgia O'Keeffe was a key pioneer in the emergence of a uniquely American form of modern art. After early studies in both Chicago and New York during the first decade of the twentieth century, O'Keeffe took up teaching posts in South Carolina and Texas before returning to New York in 1918, Here, her career was supported by Alfred Stieglitz, the influential owner of a gallery called 291, whom she married in 1924, In the mid 1920s O'Keeffe was initially influenced by the Precisionists, and produced a series of hard-edged works representing New York skyscrapers, such as New York Street with Moon, It was also around this time that she started to produce near-abstract paintings based upon natural forms including plants, flowers and shells.

Red Poppy provides a key example of this approach. Here the entire canvas is filled with soft, undulating, forms, executed in luminous reds and blacks. The use of carefully modulated tonalities reminiscent of watercolour paintings, gives the impression of light, ephemeral forms floating in on undefined space. At the same time, however, these shapes evoke, though never fully describe, natural forms, suggestive of leaves seen in extreme close-up.