Alligator Pears (Alligator Pear- No. 11), 1923
Pastel on paper mounted on board
12 1/4 x 10 inches
Inscribed on the backing: Alligator
Pear-No. 11-1924/Georgia O’Keeffe
In 1923, O’Keeffe began a small series of still lifes depicting alligator pears, or avocados. The present work is one of two pastels and six oil paintings in the series. In the present work, the alligator pears almost disappear into abstraction, surrounded by arcing shapes of subtly blended white and gray pigment. O’Keeffe punctuates the composition with a triangle of forest green pastel, built up in layers to appear almost velvet-like, and a burst of salmon-pink applied in delicate, feathery strokes.
O’Keeffe’s interest in the rhythm and forms of nature is evident in her reworking themes over a period of months and even years. Rather than progressing in a typically linear fashion from one style to another, she often altered between and worked simultaneously with realistic observation and abstraction. The alligator pear series exemplifies this working method, with O’Keeffe’s first pictures presenting an almost literal depiction of the fruit, and then progressing, as in the present work, toward an image that is almost completely abstract. Referring to her alligator pear series O’Keeffe remarked, “I had an alligator-pears-in-a-large-dark-basket period…I have always considered that it was one of the times when I did what I really intended to do. One isn’t always able to do that…”