It’s about March when I begin to come out of hibernation and dream of breaking up the monotony of daily life and travel. Living in the high desert, the dry spring winds create a yearning for large bodies of water – especially water and shoreline that evokes a sense of renewal and passage of the winter season. It was in March of 1920 when Georgia O’Keeffe took her first of several trips to the coast of Maine. A break from the New York winter, the coast offers a chance for O’Keeffe to return to nature. Her trips to the shore result in pastels, watercolors, and oil paintings of shells, seaweed, seascapes, and waves.
In the spring of 1920 I went to York Beach, Maine… I spent much time walking on the long, clean sandy beach —often picking up extraordinary things I kept in large platters of water to paint… I loved running down the board walk to the ocean —watching the waves come in, spreading over the hard wet beach — 1
… The sun is shining brightly – very warm but the wind seems cool – a great mist rising from the sand – So I lay on the steps in the sun like a dog – face down – just listening and being hot… Today is harder to put down in color than the other days – I’ve been thinking of it – I’m going to try to put down something every day for you – 2
… I’ve had the most wonderful afternoon – The sort of sea that Homer tried to paint – but that just can’t be done – It’s the first real thrill I’ve had that compares favorably with Texas – I just almost died – it was so wonderful… For three hours watching the tide coming in with these tremendous waves rolling over rocks that make New York seem like an idiot’s toy – the sky mostly blue – and such masses of froth and foam rushing and rolling and booming till everything seemed to shake – 3
Liz Ehrnst, Archives and Digital Collections Librarian
1. O’Keeffe, Georgia. Georgia O’Keeffe (New York: Viking Press, 1976), unpaginated text accompanying entry 46.
2. Letter from Georgia O’Keeffe at York Beach, Maine to Alfred Stieglitz, May 6, 1922.
3. Letter from Georgia O’Keeffe at York Beach, Maine to Alfred Stieglitz, May 7, 1922.