In 1929, painter Georgia O’Keeffe and photographer Ansel Adams met for the first time in Taos, New Mexico. O’Keeffe was by then an established artist; Adams was still at the beginning of his career. Despite a 15-year age gap and different personalities, the two forged friendship that lasted the rest of their lives.
In their own unique ways, Adams and O’Keeffe each possessed a remarkable ability to capture the world’s natural beauty, which they both revered. The two would correspond and visit each other over the years.
Though they did not visit at the same time, one of the places O’Keeffe and Adams briefly ensconced to work was Hawaii. The works of both artists in the Islands are the centerpieces of an exhibition opening this week at the Honolulu Museum of Art.
Georgia O’Keeffe and Ansel Adams: The Hawai‘i Pictures is the first exhibition solely dedicated to collectively featuring the paintings and photographs created in Hawaii by these two pioneering American artists.
While both artists are inextricably connected with specific places—O’Keeffe to the American Southwest; Adams to Yosemite National Park—it remains a little-know fact to many that O’Keeffe and Adams spent brief periods in the Islands between 1939 and 1958 capturing Hawaii's essence and sense of place.
“Both artist wanted to unmask what lay beyond the beaches of Waikiki,” says Theresa Papanikolas, the museum’s curator of European and American art and of this exhibition, in a statement.
O’Keeffe stayed for two months on Oahu in 1939 to work on print advertisements for the Hawaiian Pineapple Co. (now Dole Co.). While here, she visited Maui, Kauai and the Big Island, capturing dramatic coastlines, volcanic terrain and tropical plants in 20 paintings, some of which will be on display in the Honolulu Museum of Art exhibit.
Adams visited the Islands in 1948 on a project to take photographs for a series on America’s national parks for the Department of the Interior. He returned 11 years later to shoot photos for a commemorative publication for Bishop National Bank of Hawaii (now First Hawaiian Bank). Fifty of Adams’ gelatin black-and-white prints—featuring both his signature panoramic and scenic photos, in addition to portraiture and scenes of day-to-day life in Hawaii in 1958—will be part of the Honolulu Museum of Art exhibit.
The six-month Georgia O’Keeffe and Ansel Adams: The Hawaii Pictures exhibit opens on July 18 and closes on Jan. 12, 2014. It will then travel to the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
To learn even more about the fascinating back stories behind O’Keeffe and Adams visits to Hawaii, check out the HAWAII Magazine feature Georgia and Ansel in Hawaii by associate editor Maureen O’Connell in the July/August 2013 issue, available on newsstands and in bookstores nationwide, by print subscription or on the Apple iPad Newsstand. In addition to being a great read, the piece features several of the Hawaii-inspired photos and paintings from both artists.
Georgia O’Keeffe and Ansel Adams: The Hawaii Pictures runs from July 18 to Jan. 12, 2014 at the Honolulu Museum of Art, 900 S. Beretania St. Cost is $10 for adults, free for children 17 and under and museum members. For more information, call (808) 532-8700 or visit www.honolulumuseum.org.
Photo and painting: (top) Ansel Adams' "Roots, Foster Garden, Hawaii," 1948, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Henry B. Clark, Jr., 1989 Photo: ©2013 The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust; (bottom) Georgia O'Keeffe's "Black Lava Bridge, Hana Coast No. II," 1939, gift of the Georgia O'Keeffe Foundation, 1994 Photo: Honolulu Museum of Art