Flower of Life II, 1925, 1918 by Georgia O'Keeffe

"I went out one morning to look at [the Shelton Hotel] and there was the optical illusion of a bite out of one side of the tower made by the sun, with sunspots against the building and against the sky," said Georgia O'Keeffe, recalling the precise moment that inspired her to paint The Shelton with Sunspots. Although her depictions of flowers and the southwestern landscape are powerful and evocative, O'Keeffe painted a group of cityscapes in the 1920s that are no less intriguing. She married the photographer and dealer Alfred Stieglitz in 1924, and the following year they moved into the Shelton, a recently completed skyscraper. O'Keeffe was fascinated by the soaring height of the building and emphasized its majesty in this painting by rendering it from the street below. In the glaring light of the emerging sun, the building becomes an abstracted series of rectangles arranged in the center of the composition. Yet the hard edges of the Shelton are softened by the numerous circular sunspots and wavy, flowing lines of smoke and steam, suggesting that despite her urban subject matter, O'Keeffe nevertheless sought to unify man-made and organic forms, just as she would in her southwestern paintings such as Black Cross, New Mexico.