"MY PAINTINGS OWNED BY YOU… AND MY PAINTINGS LENT TO YOU BY ME": FINE 1971 TWO-PAGE TYPED LETTER SIGNED BY O'KEEFFE TO HER SISTER, TWICE SIGNED BY GEORGIA O'KEEFFE
O'KEEFFE, Georgia. Typed letter signed. Abiquiu, New Mexico: No publisher, August 27, 1971. Original two leaves of onionskin carbons (each 8-1/2 by 11 inches) in typescript, signed, initialed on the rectos; three leaves of typescript in facsimile on the rectos. Together housed in a custom clamshell box. $3500.
Typed letter signed by renowned artist Georgia O’Keeffe to her sister, boldly signed by O’Keeffe on the second page, with her initials, “G O’K” on the first page of the two carbon leaves, writing her sister about “my paintings owned by you… and my paintings lent to you by me,” as well as her wishes for certain paintings designated for the National Gallery of Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and other major museums, housed in a beautiful custom clamshell box.
"Georgia O'Keeffe was a key figure in the American 20th century… as a strong and individual colorist and as the lyric poet of her beloved New Mexico landscape, she left her mark on the history of American art… O'Keeffe's career, Hilton Kramer wrote, ''is unlike almost any other in the history of modern art in America.'' It embraced virtually the whole history of modern art" (New York Times). This August 27, 1971 letter speaks to the artistic legacy of Georgia O'Keeffe, as well as her close relationship with her sister, Anita, wife of Robert R. Young. "Georgia remarked late in her own artistic career that Anita would have painted circles around her if she hadn't been afraid to free her own imagination on paper" (Reilly, Georgia O'Keeffe, 321), and in March 1984 Georgia was visiting her sister in Florida when she suffered a coronary and was flown back to New Mexico, only two years before her death at age 98.
The subject of this letter is, as she writes in part, "conversations between us regarding my paintings owned by you… and my paintings lent to you by me," as well as her desire for select paintings "to go to the institutions designated" by her. At times, in earlier wills, "O'Keeffe had named family members as legatees… During the 1970s, however, the wills she had made directed more property to the public than to family, and in the 1979 will, no family members at all were named as heirs… The change in her property planning had little bearing on Georgia's family relationships. These were still strong and affectionate" (Robinson, Georgia O'Keeffe, 542). Upon her own death in 1985, "Anita willed all ten of her Georgia O'Keeffe paintings to the Robert R. Young Foundation," which had been established to honor her husband (Reilly, 323).
The text of the letter reads: "Abiquiu, New Mexico 87510, August 27, 1971. Mrs. Robert R. Young, FAIRHOLME [upper case in original] Ochre Point, Newport, Rhode Island 06840. Dear Anita: This will confirm conversations between us regarding my paintings owned by you (see List A) and my paintings lent to you by me (see Lists B and C). As to those paintings owned by you (see List A), you agree upon your death by your last will and testament or other undertaking to cause these paintings to go to the institutions designated on List A. I would like you to make it a condition of such a gift that these institutions may not lend these paintings, except for once in twenty years. Such a loan could only be for a major retrospective exhibition of my work held by a museum, or an equivalent exhibition of the Stieglitz Collection, or for some unforeseen situation of special importance which may come up. I would also like you to ask that the O'Keeffe frame which I have designed (silver or metal) be kept on these paintings, unless the institution wishes to show them without any frame at all. Such agreement on your part so as to dispose of these paintings in no way restricts your right to sell them during your lifetime in case you are in personal need. Should you need to sell any of these paintings, however, you will give me or my legal representative the right to purchase the painting or paintings to be disposed of at the prices you paid for them. As to those paintings loaned by me to you, all o which are set forth on Lists B and C, receipt of which by you is acknowledged, we have agreed between us that you may retain these paintings during your lifetime, even though I may predec[letter "l' inked over]ease you, unless the provisions in my will concerning this do not hold. At any time during your lifetime I or my legal representative may request in writing the return of two paintings per year of the paintings on Lists B and C, and you will undertake to return them to me at your expense. If, at any time during your lifetime you desire to return all or part of the paintings to me, you may do so by notifying me or my legal representative in writing, and sending them at your expense by my packer to a destination designated in writing by me. Should you be severely incapacitated so that you cannot enjoy the paintings, it is our understanding that those on List A should be placed on loan at the designated [word crossed out in typescript] institutions after consultation with me or my legal representative, and that those on Lists B and C be returned to me. It is agreed that you will take all possible precautions to care for the paintings on Lists B and C as if they were your own, and that you will keep the paintings on all three lists in one of your three residences (900 Fifth Avenue, New York; 548 North County Road, Palm Beach, Florida; or Ochre Point, Newport, Rhode Island) except when in transit from one residence to another. It is further agreed that should any of the paintings on Lists A, B, and C need a conservator's care for their preservation, that this may only be done in consultation with me or my representative, using the person who takes care such problems for me in my own work. Work to be done on List A would be paid for by you, work on Lists B and C would be paid for by me, unless damage is due to your negligence. Should any of the paintings on List A be lost, stolen, or damaged, your obligations as designated above for List A are of no force. It is understood that the foregoing constitutes our entire understanding and that neither you nor I have any obligations one to the other, except those set forth above. If you agree with the foregoing, please sign and initial both pages of the carbon copy of this letter and return it to me as soon as possible. Very truly yours, [signed] Georgia O'Keeffe [typescript] Georgia O'Keeffe. [lower left of page two in typescript] Read and agreed to by me this [blank space] day of September, 1971 [space for signature left blank] [typescript] Anita O'K Young." In addition to her signature on page two, O'Keeffe signed page one, "G O'K." Accompanying the carbons of O'Keeffe's two-page letter are photocopies of Lists A, B, And C, dated June 2, 1971, detailing the paintings owned by and lent to her sister, including those titled, "Jimson Weed," "Winter Cottonwoods East V," "Calla Lilies on Red," "Abstraction—White Rose III," and "Red Hills and White Flower." Next to each listed work is the corresponding insurance value, year, media, dimensions (in some cases), and the intended public institutions, including the National Gallery of Art, Boston's Museum of Fine Arts, the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Neither carbon is signed or initialed by Anita. Minimal traces of tape to versos, tiny pinholes from staple removal to upper corners not affecting text or signatures.
Signatures bold and dark. Fine condition.