Black Iris

Artist: Georgia O'Keeffe (American, Sun Prairie, Wisconsin 1887–1986 Santa Fe, New Mexico)

Date: 1926

Medium: Oil on canvas

Dimensions: 36 x 29 7/8 in. (91.4 x 75.9 cm)

Classification: Paintings

Credit Line: Alfred Stieglitz Collection, 1969

Accession Number: 69.278.1


This monumental flower painting is one of O'Keeffe's masterpieces. Using colors that are subtly graded from impenetrable black-purple and deep maroon to soft pinks, grays, and whites, she captures the ephemeral quality of this springtime bloom. By enlarging the petals to over-lifesize proportions, O'Keeffe forces the viewer to confront what might otherwise be overlooked and, in turn, elevates the ordinary to the extraordinary. When her magnified flowers were first shown in 1924, even Stieglitz was shocked by their audacity. Critics saw sexual content in their delicate contours, organic forms, and lush surfaces, even though the artist always denied such associations.