Georgia O'Keeffe Color Palettes

Let Georgia O’Keeffe’s My Front Yard, Summer, 1941 inspire your decor. Photograph courtesy of Georgia O’Keeffe Museum; Gift of The Georgia O’Keeffe Foundation, Malcolm Varon.

IN DOZENS OF CANVASES, Georgia O’Keeffe visited and revisited the varicolored Cerro Pedernal, west of Abiquiú. “The cliffs over there are almost painted for you—you think—until you try to paint them,” she once wrote. As she observed the landscape changing according to the weather and seasons, the modernist icon used a spectrum of hues that spanned from siennas and olives to browns and blues. 

While many visitors to the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, in Santa Fe, and the Georgia O’Keeffe Home and Studio, in Abiquiú, initially assume that O’Keeffe chose her vibrant palettes out of an expressionistic urge to exaggerate the landscapes she depicted, that’s not the case. “With these colors, she’s actually very faithful to this landscape, really trying to capture its essence as accurately as she can,” says Ariel Plotek, the museum’s curator of fine art.

Georgia O’Keeffe Personal Property, Color Cards, 2001, Pedernal Palettes, New Mexico MagazineO'Keeffe's handwritten color cards, Georgia O’Keeffe Personal Property, Color Cards, 2001. Photograph courtesy of The Georgia O'Keeffe Museum.

The museum has a collection of O’Keeffe’s personally mixed color cards with her handwritten notes on the back for reference. A recent acquisition of 20 jars of the artist’s pigments dating to the late 1930s will allow conservators more insight into her artistic process.   

With those in mind, the museum developed swatch cards (available on the museum’s Instagram story “O’Keeffe Inspired”) as inspiration for home decorators drawing on works such as My Front Yard, Summer (1941), with the mountains in dark khaki, olive drab, dark slate gray, tan, and slate gray, and Lavender Hill with Green, 1952, which offers a peaceful gauziness in tan, rosy brown, light steel blue, and Peru (a brownish peach).

O’Keeffe regarded each hue as a building block toward a larger story. “This assembling, for O’Keeffe, was a matter of color as much as form,” Plotek says. “We think of her in her studio, bringing the landscape to life on her easel. With color palettes like these, all of us can bring a little more nature indoors.”

Story Sidebar

Whiskey & Clay smudge bowl for Georgia O'Keeffe decorating, Pedernal Palettes, New Mexico MagazineBUY IT AT THE GEORGIA O’KEEFFE MUSEUM STORE

Minimalist ceramic vases by Santa Fe-based Modern Folk Ware ($40–$140) reflect the elegant slopes of O’Keeffe’s animal bones, skulls, and shells. 

Artist Betsy Olmsted was inspired by the blazing oranges of Pedernal (1941), in creating the bold stripes of the Pedernal Tea Towel ($24). 

A smudge bowl (pictured, $28) from Whiskey & Clay bears a terra-cotta stripe, matching the red earth made famous by O’Keeffe.

Read More: Famed for her Modernist paintings, Georgia O’Keeffe quietly trail-blazed a path of organic, minimalist living.

Read More: For 12 years, Agapita Judy Lopez worked for Georgia O’Keeffe. To this day, she helps preserve the artist’s legacy.

Read More: Bring a bit of New Mexico into your abode—no matter where you live—with hues inspired by her works.