This is an analysis of Georgia O’Keeffe’s 1950 painting entitled “Poppies,” an oil on canvas work by the seminal American artist. This is a very brightly colored large scale piece that is constructed in such a way that the viewer seems to be looking at the flower in extreme close-up mode. The background at first seems blackish which leads the poppies to simply burst forth from the canvas in vivid color with almost palpable detail. The poppies themselves are positioned against a bright blue sky with stark contrast between the white and coral colored blooms, and the striking black and red petals and stamen set therein.
The painting is an oil on canvas work and the subject not large at all for this artist, but absolutely large scale in terms of real life scale. Again, the painting draws the viewer in seductively close, like a vision through a secretive magnifying lens. It is hard for the viewer to imagine coming so up close and personal to flowers of this size. The coral and white poppies dominate, in not engulf, the canvas, with the blue and black surround, a seemingly ethereal after thought or backdrop.
In terms of formal visual elements, the viewer is inundated with the sheer mass of the poppies in this work, elements that absolutely dominate the piece as a whole. The lines are crisp and well defined by sheer color as opposed to sharp edges. The flowers flow into one another on the page, with rich, sense and vibrant hues. The artist uses these color saturated forms to almost float upon a sky blue background. The core centers of each poppy appear hairy, as if the viewer could reach out and feel the texture in their own fingers.
In terms of design, the poppies are absolutely dominant in scale. They are well proportioned and work congruously, despite their absolutely massive scale. The painting draws the viewer into each of flower’s core and there is much emphasis on detail and the natural patterns struck by the various floral elements, petals, stigma, filaments, and more. The light blue and highly realistic sky subordinates quietly to the white and coral drama unfolding in forefront of the work.
The painting is a two dimensional work, which the artist deftly magnifies to allow the viewer to have a close up view of the immensely fine floral details. This is a great example of realism, as the viewer is left with no doubt that they are witness to a set of poppies unlike any they have ever seen before. The painting itself is very smooth in appearance which allows the poppies to take on a vibrancy and individual characteristics as between the white flower and the coral flower. It is as if they have their own character, resting softly upon the blue sky background, and leaving the viewer with a refreshed and positive feeling about the artwork and its immediate surroundings. Through the use of scale and realistic detail, the artist is almost encouraging the viewer to actively enjoy, appreciate, and participate in nature itself. There is nothing abstract about this piece whatsoever, except maybe perhaps, the fact that the flowers are so large in scale, that one almost wants to step back oh so slightly to realize that this is perhaps the closest they have ever been to the inside of a flower. Poppies are often more closed at the top and one would wonder what exactly it would be like to travel down inside to the see the pricewise inner workings. Through this piece, the artist takes the viewer there joyfully.
Again, joy comes to mind, from the moment I first laid eyes on this piece. It is absolutely magnificent and real and vibrant. The painting makes me and no doubt, other viewers simply happy and rife with the notion that we should all immediately run outside and immerse ourselves in and around mother nature. One cannot help feeling intensely connected to the universe when staring at this canvas. Visually, we are drawn in, and entranced by the bold beauty within. The up close or magnified perspective of this work is so unique in the painting realm, and actually was not even seen that much in photography until well after the subject painting was completed in 1950.
The blatant use of color, the immense scale and rich, realistic details make this work both impression worthy and important, in the sense that it is a real masterpiece in terms of color and accessibility. One does not have to be an art expert or a naturalist to understand and appreciate “Poppies.” The painting exposes the viewer to two huge poppies, one bright white, and the other a most delicious coral. This color explosion dominates the canvas, set off only by the contrasting colors of poppy’s inner petals and filaments. The shading and textural feel (think velvet or a raw silk), bring out the real vibrant nature of the piece.
The delicate and subtle blue sky causes one to almost believe that they might be looking straight into a photograph. The impression is that the background is perhaps almost unnecessary, as the absence of contrast between foreground and background is imminent. So powerful are the poppies’ presence, that one almost feels like the flowers have drawn the viewer into a heavenly spell, cast by Mother Nature herself. One thing for certain, this piece, like the others in the artist’s poppy series, is unforgettable and one the viewer will remember and treasure from first sight.