Form | Criticism

While some critics applied psychoanalytic theory to works by Dove and O'Keeffe, others analyzed their abstractions in strictly formal terms. These theorists argued that a picture's arrangements of color, line, and composition were more significant than its ostensible subject. This "formalist" approach briefly predominated among American critics around the time of the International Exhibition of Modern Art, held at the 69th Regiment Armory in New York in 1913. The exhibition was applauded by many reviewers for celebrating art free from the naturalism and anecdotal subject matter of much American art. Although neither Dove nor O'Keeffe exhibited at the Armory Show, the theories of modern art that emerged in its wake informed the critical responses to their abstract paintings and drawings.

Georgia O'Keeffe, "Red & Orange Streak," 1919. Oil on canvas. Philadelphia Museum of Art. Bequest of Georgia O'Keeffe for the Alfred Stieglitz Collection, 1987 [Courtesy of the Philadelphia Museum of Art]

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