1887 - 1986
Oil on canvas
48 x 30 in. (121.9 x 76.2 cm)
Framed: 48 5/16 x 30 3/16 x 1 3/8 in. (122.7 x 76.7 x 3.5 cm)
Radiator Building is O’Keeffe’s grandest statement on New York City. She depicted the skyscraper, located in Midtown Manhattan, lit from within and without by a variety of electric light. Round streetlamps and glowing rectangular windows form an abstract pattern on the surface of the painting, while a diagonal beam from a spotlight adds a sense of movement. O’Keeffe’s low point of view and central placement of the building provides a sense of awe, demonstrating the skyscraper’s role as a symbol of modern America in the 1920s.
O’Keeffe included Stieglitz’s name in neon at the upper left, transforming the painting into a symbolic portrait similar to Demuth’s Calla Lilies (Bert Savoy). Although Stieglitz and O’Keeffe preferred nature to the city, their New York apartment was on an upper floor of a high-rise building, as was 291. The painting inextricably associates the couple with the bright lights and architecture of the urban environment.