The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts presents

Georgia O’Keeffe and Henry Moore: Giants of Modern Art

This major exhibition that takes an unprecedented look at the influence of nature in the work of two pioneers of Modern art.

Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986), The White Flower (White Trumpet Flower), 1932.

Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986), The White Flower (White Trumpet Flower), 1932. The San Diego Museum of Art, gift of Mrs. Inez Grant Parker in memory of Earle W. Grant. © Georgia O’Keeffe Museum / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / CARCC Ottawa 2024

The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA) is presenting the Canadian exclusive Georgia O’Keeffe and Henry Moore: Giants of Modern Art, a large-scale exhibition that, for the first time, sets the work of American painter Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986) in dialogue with that of British sculptor Henry Moore (1898-1986).

Organized by the San Diego Museum of Art, the exhibition examines the lives and art of these two 20th-century icons in parallel. Through over 120 works as well as recreations of each artist’s studio, visitors will discover the evolution of O’Keeffe’s and Moore’s artistic practices, which  underscore the fundamental relationship between humanity and the natural world.

Though they lived on separate continents, O’Keeffe and Moore shared a coherent vision and approach to Modernism. Their commonality lies in their profound sensitivity to the natural world and their ongoing exploration of their surrounding rural and open environments. While some of their contemporaries, like Piet Mondrian and Hans Arp, used natural forms as a pathway to abstraction, for O’Keeffe and Moore, these elements were central to artistic creation.

Henry Moore (1898-1986), Bird Basket, 1939

Henry Moore (1898-1986), Bird Basket, 1939. The Henry Moore
Foundation, Much Hadham, England, received 2002. Reproduced
by permission of The Henry Moore Foundation. Photo Darren Chung

On their daily excursions and travels, both artists collected stones, animal skulls and bones, gnarled roots or pieces of wood, and coiled seashells with which they filled their studios. Their vast collections reveal striking similarities. In what is a first, the meticulous recreation of their respective studios will enable the public to see how these found objects shaped their creation and inspired some of their most important works.

“We are thrilled to collaborate with the San Diego Museum of Art to present the work of pioneering modern artists Georgia O’Keeffe and Henry Moore in Montreal. Illuminating the singular and powerful, if unspoken, dialogue between O’Keeffe and Moore, this exhibition sheds new light on their shared appreciation for the interconnection between humans and the natural world, an essential subject for our time, ” says Mary-Dailey Desmarais, Chief Curator of the MMFA.

Henry Moore in the “Top Studio,” Perry Green, about 1953.

Henry Moore in the “Top Studio,” Perry Green, about 1953. Reproduced by permission of The Henry Moore Foundation. Photo Roger Wood

“The two artists met only once that we know of, on the occasion of Moore’s solo exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 1946. O’Keeffe had also had a solo exhibition there the same year. We have to wonder what this formidable institution was saying to devote their program to these two artists just as the world was reeling from the trauma of war. Could it be that their art offered something life affirming, positive and healing through its humanistic connection with nature?” adds Anita Feldman, Deputy Director for Curatorial Affairs, San Diego Museum of Art, and Curator of the exhibition.

“Given the many similarities in O’Keeffe’s and Moore’s artistic interests, habits, formal explorations and iconographic vocabularies, it’s difficult to fathom that no extensive exchange of ideas ever occurred between them. Linked by an intangible connection that transcended time and space, they followed parallel trajectories of prolific output inspired by natural forms,” says Iris Amizlev, Curator – Community Engagement and Projects at the MMFA and curator of the Montreal presentation.

Yousuf Karsh (1908-2002), Georgia O’Keeffe, 1956.

Yousuf Karsh (1908-2002), Georgia O’Keeffe, 1956. MMFA, gift of Estrellita Karsh in memory of Yousuf Karsh. © Estate of Yousuf Karsh

A remarkable collection of works

O’Keeffe and Moore have been the subjects of innumerable exhibitions but never before has their work been brought together. The artworks in the exhibition come mainly from the Henry Moore Foundation, in Hertfordshire, England, and the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, in New Mexico, as well as from approximately 20 museums and private collections.

They comprise paintings, works on paper and sculptures in diverse media, ranging from plasters and bronzes to lead, rare woods like elm and lignum vitae, marble, as well as Hopton Wood stone, Cumberland alabaster and even a sculpture carved from stalactite. Masterpieces include Moore’s stringed Bird Basket (1939), Reclining Figure (1959-1964), Working Model for Three Piece No. 3: Vertebrae (1968) and Working Model for Oval with Points (1968-1969), and O’Keeffe’s Jack-in-the-Pulpit No. 3 (1930), Ram’s Head, Blue Morning Glory (1938) and Pedernal – From the Ranch #1 (1956). The exhibition also integrates a selection of video interviews conducted with the two artists at certain points in their careers.

In addition, this Montreal presentation augments the exhibition with works from its own collection, including a transformation drawing and four sculptures by Moore, as well as a portrait of O’Keeffe photographed by Yousuf Karsh.

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