Georgia O’Keefe and Dole Pineapple Juice

Catchy title, you say? What in the world does renowned artist of the American southwest have to do with Dole Pineapple juice?

The Seattle Art Museum’s new curator of American art, Theresa Papanikolas, gave a really interesting lecture about O’Keefe, and the Museum will mount of show of O’Keefe’s work in spring 2020. Most of us know O’Keefe in the geographical context of the southwest, where much of her most famous work was done. Many of us might know that she and her husband Alfred Stieglitz, renowned American photographer, were partners in love and in life.

Famous though they are, and were, artists have to make a living. Creative work doesn’t pay well, or if it does, it’s usually not until the artist is long dead. In 1970, shortly before her death, struggling photographer Diane Arbus sold limited edition boxed sets of 10 photographs for $1000 each box. I think she did ten sets, and only three sold. Most recently, Christie’s auctioned a single box for just under $800,000.

O’Keefe went to Hawaii because Dole paid her to create two paintings for print ads featuring pineapple juice, and she needed the money. She was free to paint whatever she wanted for the nine weeks she was there, as long as she delivered the two paintings to Dole, which she did. The ads appeared in Vogue and the Saturday Evening Post. According to curator Papanikolas, the paintingsĀ  no longer belong to Dole but are now in possession of a private collector.

If you’d like to see the paintings O’Keefe made for Dole and hear more of the story, click here.

Most artists have to do something more mundane to pay the bills, or they have a patron. Arbus did fashions shots for high end magazines. Novelist Mary Gordon taught English at Barnard. O’Keefe did ads for commercial magazines. Interestingly her paintings for Dole were no less gorgeous than any of her other work, even with a glass of pineapple juice plunked in the middle and the Dole corporate logo down below.

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