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How Georgia O’Keeffe wanted “The Eggplant” framed

I’m on my way to view the Georgia O’Keeffe retrospective at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) this week, and as I was rooting around the museum’s website, I found this fabulous video. It shows (without audio) the reframing of “The Eggplant” (1924), the first Canadian-owned O’Keeffe painting.

What makes this reframing significant is that the new frame was constructed according to the artist’s original specifications. As with every other aspect of her paintings, O’Keeffe was fastidious about her frames. I’ll be interested to see how the long, narrow image looks with a black surround. I can’t recall seeing many (any?) O’Keeffe frames in black…

Dale Kronkright, Head of Conservation and Preservation at the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, referenced the artist’s original frame specifications to produce the replica and travelled to Toronto to oversee the reframing.

How did “The Eggplant” get to the AGO? In 1925, Toronto artist, poet, and socialite Doris Louise Heustis Speirs became the first person outside of the USA to buy a painting — this painting — by O’Keeffe. It hung in her home, where regular guests, including Lawren Harris and other members of the Group of Seven, had ample opportunity to view it. The painting was introduced to Canadian audiences in 1927 as part of an exhibition at the Art Gallery of Toronto (now the AGO). In 1990, her late husband, Dr. J. Murray Speirs, donated the painting in her memory to the AGO. It remains the sole O’Keeffe work owned by the gallery.

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Ann Daly PhD is an essayist specializing in women and women's history. She is working on a book about Georgia O'Keeffe.

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