Canadian exclusive: Georgia O’Keeffe and Henry Moore unveiled

February 18, 2024

The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA) is set to captivate art enthusiasts with its latest exhibition, “Georgia O’Keeffe and Henry Moore: Giants of Modern Art.” Organized by the San Diego Museum of Art, this unprecedented display brings together over 120 works, including paintings, sculptures and recreations of the artists’ studios, offering a unique opportunity to explore the profound connection between American painter Georgia O’Keeffe (1887‐1986) and British sculptor Henry Moore (1898-1986). Despite residing on separate continents, their shared vision and deep sensitivity to the natural world form the basis for a captivating exploration of their parallel lives and artistic journeys.

A shared vision

O’Keeffe and Moore’s distinct yet interconnected artistic expressions reveal a shared affinity for the natural world. Unlike their contemporaries who used natural forms as a pathway to abstraction, these two modernist giants considered nature integral to their artistic creation. Through daily excursions and travels, both artists collected stones, animal skulls, bones and other organic materials, which served as the foundation for their creative processes. The exhibition showcases the meticulous recreation of their respective studios, allowing visitors to witness how these found objects shaped the artists’ masterpieces.

The real and the surreal

When you take a flower in your hand and really look at it, it’s your world for the moment. I want to give that world to someone else. Most people in the city rush around so, they have no time to look at a flower. I want them to see it whether they want to or not. ” – Georgia O’Keeffe

Both O’Keeffe and Moore made careful studies from nature throughout their careers, delving into Surrealist themes without fully subscribing to the movement’s manifesto. O’Keeffe’s studies of feathers, fruit, flowers and seashells reveal layered, mysterious forms, while Moore’s sketches of bones and shells transformed into human figures showcase his distinctive approach. The exhibition explores the artists’ common interest in transformation, metamorphosis and the unexpected beauty found in the organic world.

Bones as symbols

Bones, often seen as reminders of life’s fragility, take on a different significance in the works of O’Keeffe and Moore. For them, bones represent density and resilience, encapsulating intricate internal structures within a sturdy exterior. O’Keeffe juxtaposes bone forms with feathers or flowers, highlighting their strength visually. Moore, on the other hand, uses sharply defined edges in his sculptures, framing the surrounding space and emphasizing the changing perspectives of viewers.

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

The artists in their element

The exhibition goes beyond showcasing the artworks, offering visitors a glimpse into the artists’ private spaces. O’Keeffe’s studios in Ghost Ranch and Abiquiú, New Mexico, are faithfully recreated, complete with furnishings and objects from 1946. Moore’s various studios in rural Hertfordshire, England, reflect his diverse working practices, from drawing and carving to graphics and photography. The re-creations immerse viewers in the environments that inspired these pioneering artists and are a highlight of the exhibition.

An exhibition not to be missed

The MMFA presents yet another captivating and exclusive exhibition of great artistic significance. “Georgia O’Keeffe and Henry Moore: Giants of Modern Art” offers a compelling journey into the interconnectedness between humanity and the natural world, showcasing the profound perspectives of two towering figures in the art world. Despite the geographical distance between O’Keeffe and Moore, their parallel trajectories underscore the timeless relevance of their contributions to the art scene.

Delve into the intricate details of the artists’ lives, explore the influences that shaped their masterpieces, and witness the profound impact they’ve had on the art world.

This extraordinary exhibition runs from February 10 to June 2nd, inviting art enthusiasts to immerse themselves in the visionary creations of O’Keeffe and Moore. Following its showcase in Montreal, the exhibition will continue its journey to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, further solidifying its status as a groundbreaking celebration of two influential pioneers in modern art. Don’t miss the opportunity to experience this Canadian exclusive that offers a unique perspective on the enduring legacy of these artistic giants.

All images courtesy of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.


Story by Andra Balaci

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