O'Keeffe used the natural ambience at Lake George, essentially the inspiration for many of her portraits. The dimensions of this piece are 36 1/16 x 30 1/8 inches, and The Petunia No. 2 can be viewed at the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum, which is located in Santa Fe, New Mexico U.S.A. O'Keeffe was amazed by the flora's beauty and inherent colours at Lake George where she was living. During the summer months of 1924, she mainly painted petunia flowers due to their abundance, radiant hues and natural grace. While she often dabbled in natural landscapes, her botanical portraits consumed the majority of her painting time.
For 15 years, while living at Lake George Village, O'Keeffe created over 200 paintings, and the majority of them were flowers. The Petunia No. 2 was O'Keeffe's first attempt at an enlarged floral painting, and it has been widely considered one of her finest creations. This oil on canvas piece portrays a large purple-lavender coloured drooping flower leaning towards the painting's centre. A sloping darker arch is slightly obscuring a similarly styled petunia. The subtle shades of lavender, inter-mixed with the tones of the lily-pad leaf, accentuate the maturing petunia buds on the painting's lower-left part.
O'Keeffe has been quoted saying that "as petunias are so small and delicate, no-one can really see them for the utmost beauty they behold". She therefore decided to paint flowers on a large-sized canvas, so "everyone can take their liberty to look at it, and appreciate them, as I do". Close-up flower paintings, therefore, became her signature motif. And with her success, she was empowered to pave an artistic pathway for numerous future female artists who used her creations for their own inspiration.
This, in part, partially describes O'Keeffe's motivation for painting large-scaled buds and petals, as she often wrote to her friends with such excitement in her letters, "I wish you could see what I see." With this motif, O'Keeffe shows us all - especially so in her best paintings - how she saw the beauty in the natural realm around her. Even today, when looking at O'Keeffe's paintings at the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum, viewers are often initially astonished and comment on how fresh her paintings still look.