Petunias florid, yet subtle, radiant colours and contour details bridge the gap between realism and abstract painting. Whilst not photographic in its realism, Petunias is painted as if seen through a magnifying glass, to give the effect of being very close to the flower itself.
The cropping of the frame to provide a close-up, detailed look at the flower were a feature of O'Keefe's style and in this way she instilled a sense of grandeur into the minutiae of the Petunias.
The rich purple of the flowers, contrasting with the white background make the flowers seem to stand out from the canvas, as if they are floating in isolation, whilst the subtle layering of petals gives depth to the flowers themselves.
Georgia O'Keefe was known as the 'Mother of American Modernism', and it is in paintings such as this where we see where her reputation sprang from. Ground-breaking in its use of colour and scale, O'Keefe used this highly detailed and expressive study of nature to bring into focus the small things in life.
Her work was often given Freudian associations by critics of the time, but O'Keefe herself refuted this, saying that she only sought to capture the essence of the flowers themselves.
O'Keefe herself said that she would rather paint the flowers small, as they really are, but instead chose to paint them large in order to surprise people into taking the time to really look at them.