The artist would carefully study the various conditions of light within Texas across the day, taking in sunrises, sunsets and moonrises. She became amazed by the light to be found here and loved specifically to visit Palo Duro Canyon in order to find new avenues of inspiration for her work. Even at this early stage of her career, it was clear that nature would play a major role in directing her style, though many other aspects of it would also play a part in later decades. O'Keeffe had earlier worked in charcoal in order to capture the local landscape but for this period appreciated the speed and colour brought about by watercolours and liked to work with a freedom of expression that ensured her emotions would become a part of the painting itself. Whilst she is now most famous for working with oils, her interest in watercolours offers an important strand to her oeuvre that in recent years has started to receive a greater focus.
"...I remember one morning i got up early to catch a bus from Amarillo back to Canyon and we saw the most extraordinary sunrise..."
All in the series were 22cm wide by 30cm tall, suggesting that perhaps the brown paper on which they were produced was a part of a sketchbook, with a consistent size of paper. She had tackled this theme in 1916 as well, with a series of brighter depictions of sunrises which are also worthy of note. She would have made many more iterations, for sure, some of which she may have discarded whilst others were in other mediums, with charcoal drawings being a popular tool in the early part of her career. You can also find the first iteration in the Light Coming on the Plains series here.
Those looking to appreciate these watercolours in person should head to the Amon Carter Museum of American Art in Fort Worth, Texas. O'Keeffe is featured here alongside some of the other great artistic names to have come from this nation, all amongst an extraordinarly large collection. There is a proud, patriotic vibe to this museum which was opened in the 1960s and has grown to become considered one of the finest galleries in the country. Those looking to understand more about American art will find the 19th and 20th centuries particularly well covered, and alongside the likes of O'Keeffe, you will also be able to enjoy original art from other great names here, such as Thomas Moran, Albert Bierstadt and also animal depictions by John James Audubon which seem highly relevant to the work of O'Keeffe.