Georgia O'Keeffe (American, 1887–1986)
Oil on canvas
12 x 30 in. (30.5 x 76.2 cm)
Alfred Stieglitz Collection, 1964 (64.310)
© 2011 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
This austere image, from a series of seven or eight barn paintings, was inspired by a summer trip that O'Keeffe made to the rugged Gaspé Peninsula of Canada in 1932. The barn, as she depicts it, is stark in color and design, and precisely delineated. She allowed the subject matter to determine the appropriate proportions of the composition: the narrow, horizontal format of White Canadian Barn II echoes the flat rectangular forms of the barn roof and walls. The picture space is divided into three distinct areas denoting sky, building, and ground. Although the barn's strictly frontal presentation almost completely negates its three-dimensional form and depth, its somber coloring and massive size indicate a tangible and weighty presence. O'Keeffe distilled the essential geometric shape from each architectural element of the structure and also eliminated the textured patterns of its surfaces and other small details; only two impenetrable, black doorways anchor the breadth of the painting. While the artist denied having any connections to organized art movements, her series of barn images (a subject atypical in her nature-inspired oeuvre) does closely fit the style of the Precisionist painters.