Lonely Planet Writer

See Georgia O’Keeffe’s Hawaii paintings among the plants that inspired them

Georgia O’Keeffe remains beloved for her evocative floral paintings and now fans of her work can see them among some of the plants that inspired her.

The New York Botanical Garden is hosting Georgia O’Keeffe: Visions of Hawai’i, an exhibition centred on the artist’s time in the Hawaiian Islands in 1939. Visitors will see a flower show that evokes the gardens and landscapes that inspired her while explaining Hawaii’s unique ecology and flora.

See the paintings of Georgia O’Keefe near the plants that inspired her. Image by NYBG

The exhibition will feature more than 15 original painting that have not been on display together in New York since they were debuted in 1940. The paintings come from a period when, in her 50s and already well-known, O’Keeffe was commissioned by the Hawaii Pineapple Company (now Dole) to create two paintings for advertisements. In total, she spent nine weeks there, producing more than 20 paintings of landscapes and her signature flowers.

While florals are associated strongly with O’Keeffe, she was also very famous for her paintings from her time in New Mexico. Her period in Hawaii is less known, but the exhibition will go on to explore “the enduring cultural impact of mid-century perceptions of Hawaii, and the ecological complexity of the Hawaiian Islands – one of the most biologically diverse places on Earth – hidden behind O’Keeffe’s depictions,” according to the botanical gardens.

See the paintings of Georgia O’Keefe near the plants that inspired her. Image by NYBG

A conservatory filled with the beautiful plants of Hawaii will let visitors learn about the importance of native plants to the culture, as well as the current threats to their existence. Just as O’Keeffe drew her inspiration from the flowers, visitors will be able to see plants like frangipani, bougainvillea, heliconia and hibiscus. Then they can head to the gardens’ art gallery to see the paintings that were created from her time there. If you want to soak up Hawaiian culture but can’t afford a trip, there will also be evening programs centred on the subject, as well as live music, performances of hula, and artisan demonstrations of lei and poi making.

Learn more about the exhibition here.