In this masterpiece of Georgia O’Keeffe’s career, precisely delineated, undulating folds and lucid, three-dimensional forms work together to create an image of potent ambiguity suggesting either portrayals of plant life or, as some critics have argued, abstractions based on the female anatomy. The formal and spatial tension of the arching lines is emphasized by the cropping of the frame, a compositional device shared with photographers such as Alfred Stieglitz. O’Keeffe has become one of the most famous American artists, and her rise to fame was due in large part to her connection with the German-trained Stieglitz. Renowned in his own right as an artist, Stieglitz actively promoted European modernist ideals and encouraged young American artists to experiment with the new formalist language, giving them a venue to show their work at his legendary 291 gallery in New York. When he and O’Keeffe met in 1916, Stieglitz had established himself as a staunch supporter of the avant-garde, exhibiting the work of European, as well as American, artists. At Stieglitz’s gallery, O’Keeffe saw the work of European innovators such as Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque. That influence—along with the aesthetic theories of American artist and educator Arthur Wesley Dow—greatly inspired her own paintings. Grey Lines with Black, Blue and Yellow, with its richly nuanced blend of colors, can be compared to European precedents, and it exhibits O’Keeffe’s lifelong allegiance to Dow’s mantra of “filling space in a beautiful way.”

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Georgia O'Keeffe, American, 1887–1986
Grey Lines with Black, Blue and Yellow
c. 1923
Oil on canvas
48 × 30 in. (121.9 × 76.2 cm) frame: 49 1/2 × 31 1/2 × 2 1/8 in.
Credit Line

Museum purchase funded by the Agnes Cullen Arnold Endowment Fund

Current Location
The Audrey Jones Beck Building
Accession Number

Ex-collection: The artist Ex-collection: Private Collection. Sold: via Washburn Gallery, New York, NY, to the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston on November 21, 1977.