Georgia O’Keeffe (American, 1887–1986) first visited the American southwest in the summer of 1929. “Things appeared to her visually enhanced,” wrote her host, the writer and patron Mabel Dodge Luhan. “’Wonderful’ was a word that was always on her lips. ’Well! Well! Well!’ she exclaimed. ’This is wonderful. No one told me it was like this.’” No one had told her, so she began to spread the news herself—through her work.
Her paintings expanded, Southwestern colors found play on her canvases, and she discovered new images and formal arrangements. After renting a small house on Ghost Ranch for several summers, she bought it in 1940. The high desert terrain around Abiquiu, New Mexico, the location of Ghost Ranch, is mountainous, with long mesas, monolithic rock chimneys, and lined hills. Bordered by cottonwood trees, the Rio Chama flows nearby, feeding the Rio Grande some miles to the south. Cerro Pedernal, named for the agate flints found on the sides of the butte, lies ten miles southwest of Ghost Ranch.