Color Mixing Impressed by Georgia O’Keeffe’s Palette

Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986) is commonly credited with being the ‘Mom of American Modernism’. She is greatest identified for her large-scale, billowing flower work and the numerous landscapes she painted throughout her time in New Mexico, a spot that she returned to time and again. From the chilly and austere color palettes of a few of her flower work, to the new and burning hues impressed by New Mexico, O’Keeffe was maybe one of many biggest colourists of the twentieth century. This text takes a have a look at the colors in her palette, and places collectively three color palettes impressed by the color relationships in her work.


{Photograph} of Georgia O’Keeffe together with her sketchbook and watercolours by her facet taken by Alfred Atieglitz, 1918.


Georgia O’Keeffe’s Palette

In 2020, a group of pigments from Georgia O’Keeffe’s studio went up for public sale at Sotheby’s. The jars had been labelled in her handwriting, however whether or not these dry pigments had been truly utilized by O’Keeffe is unsure, as she was identified to buy her oil paints from Winsor and Newton. Nonetheless, they provide us an concept of the sorts of pigments she preferred to make use of in her color palette. They included Burnt Sienna, Purple Madder, Rose Madder, Uncooked Umber, Purple Ochre, Yellow Ochre, Gamboge, Chrome Inexperienced (a mix of Chrome Yellow and Prussian Blue), Cobalt Blue, Indigo, Zinc White, and Terre Verte.

These colors might not outstanding on their very own, however how she used them definitely was. Her color palette was very centered and intentional. She made color swatches, and deliberate and refined the colors earlier than placing brush to canvas. Whereas there’s inventive freedom to be discovered within the spontaneous use of color, there’s additionally one thing to be stated for a thought-about plan and a restricted palette.


Blue and Inexperienced Music by Georgia O’Keeffe, 1921. Artwork Institute of Chicago


Color Palette #1: Terre Verte, Burnt Sienna, Yellow Ochre, Carmine, and Cobalt Blue

The primary palette is impressed by considered one of O’Keeffe’s recollections throughout considered one of her stays in New Mexico:

    “I climbed method up on a pale inexperienced hill and within the night gentle—the solar below the clouds—the color impact was very unusual—standing excessive on a pale inexperienced hill the place I might look throughout on the pink, yellow, purple formations—miles throughout—the colors all intensified by the pale gray inexperienced I used to be standing on.”

O’Keeffe is experiencing, in a really actual and embodied method, the impact that colors have on one another– a cool-toned Inexperienced Earth (PG23) intensifies the fiery hue of heat colors. So, with this in thoughts, the primary palette is constructed round Inexperienced Earth:



I didn’t combine the Inexperienced Earth within the chart above as a result of its a low-tinting color in contrast with the others, and so it involves the fore when used by itself. The moody purples made by Carmine and Cobalt Blue and the new oranges of the Carmine and Yellow Ochre actually set off the fragile coolness of the inexperienced. General this palette is balanced and versatile, working the gamut between cool and heat tones.


Color Palette #2: Cobalt Blue, Carmine, Manganese Violet, and Cadmium Yellow

One putting factor about Georgia O’Keeffe’s palette is the way in which she put two related colors subsequent to one another in a method that reveals each their variations and their similarities, leading to a form of ‘stress’ between the 2. In Dawn, a watercolour research from 1916, she positioned a shiny purple-pink subsequent to a sizzling pink:


Dawn by Georgia O’Keeffe, watercolour on paper, 1916


The cool purple-pink makes the pink look comparatively heat, whereas the pink brings out the blue-tones within the purple-pink. The yellow within the centre kinds a focus that, as a complementary color to purple, additional intensifies the purple tones within the surrounding colors. With this in thoughts, the following palette accommodates Carmine and Manganese Violet– two colors that aren’t very removed from one another within the color wheel (they’re bluish pink and reddish violet respectively). When used collectively they exhibit an attention-grabbing color ‘stress’ we discover in O’Keeffe’s work.



My first concept for this palette used a way more delicate yellow, however I realised that the purple-heavy mixtures of Cobalt Blue, Carmine, and Manganese Violet had been crying out for an intense, opaque yellow to behave as a complementary. The combination of Manganese Violet and Cadmium Yellow could be of curiosity for portrait painters– it makes an attention-grabbing brownish orange that I wasn’t anticipating!


Jackson’s Manganese Violet oil paint


Color Palette #3: Lemon Yellow, Viridian, Inexperienced Earth, and Prussian Blue

The earlier two palettes have made use of complementary colors (i.e. yellow and purple, inexperienced and orange), however this final palette is impressed by one other method that O’Keeffe makes use of colour- utilizing a really slim color palette. An excellent instance of that is her portray Blue and Inexperienced Music which you noticed earlier on this submit, however it’s a color palette she utilized in a few of her large-scale flower work as nicely. The next palette contains colors from a cool yellow (lemon yellow), a yellow-green (Terre Verte yellow-shade), a blue inexperienced (Viridian), and a green-blue (Prussian Blue). This small slice of the color spectrum creates a unified, but subdued, color palette:



We will be taught quite a bit from the artists of artwork historical past, and what Georgia O’Keeffe’s palette teaches us is that breaking away from the standard primary-colour palette (during which all three major colors are represented) can yield some attention-grabbing outcomes. Which considered one of these palettes is your favorite?



Additional Studying

Color Mixing: Eight Blues in Eight Restricted Palettes

Venetian Purple: the Purple Earth Pigment That Evokes the Italian Renaissance

Recreating Rembrandt’s Color Palette With Fashionable Pigments

Pigment Tales: Yinmn Blue, the Latest Blue Pigment


Store Oil Portray on


Evie Hatch

Evie’s pursuits lie within the historical past and traits of artist colors and supplies. This analysis performs a big half in her artwork observe; she loves investigating conventional strategies and makes her personal watercolour and oil paints. Evie graduated in 2016 from Camberwell School of Artwork with a level in Drawing. She is presently finding out Artwork Historical past on the Courtauld Institute, London.