Waterfall—End of Road—'Iao Valley, Georgia O'Keeffe

Georgia O'Keeffe (American, 1887–1986) Waterfall—End of Road—'Iao Valley, 1939 Oil on canvas Purchase, Allerton, Prisanlee and General Acquisition Funds and with a gift from The Honolulu Advertiser, 1989 (5808.1) In 1939, Hawaiian Pineapple Company (now the Dole Company), in a campaign to market its canned fruit products by evoking the balmy exoticism of the islands, invited Georgia O’Keeffe—one of America’s foremost painters—to travel to Hawaii to make pictures for its print advertisements. For nearly two months, O’Keeffe traveled throughout all the major islands, capturing their unique topography and vegetation in a group of 20 extraordinary paintings. This is one of four paintings of waterfalls that O’Keeffe generated from the back seat of a borrowed station wagon on a day trip to ’Iao Valley, a mountainous tropical forest on the island of Maui noted for its rain-fed waterfalls. Photographs of the valley reveal that O’Keeffe remained remarkably faithful to her subject but abstracted its salient characteristics, reducing her palette to shades of green, grey, and white, and focusing on the cascade as it zigzags down the steep slopes of the mountains. The painting’s loose, expressionistic brushwork suggests immediate observation and announces a visual formula—the vortex—which O’Keeffe refined and elaborated both in the other Waterfall paintings and in later works such as Black Place I (1944, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art), a composition likewise bifurcated by a narrow mountain cleft.