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How John Deere and Eero Saarinen Inspired Georgia O'Keeffe's Largest Painting

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Georgia O’Keeffe, “Sky Above Clouds IV” (1965), oil on canvas, 96 x 288 inches (courtesy Art Institute of Chicago, restricted gift of the Paul and Gabriella Rosenbaum Foundation; gift of Georgia O’Keeffe)
In the summer of 1965, Georgia O’Keeffe painted the largest work of her career: the eight-by-24-foot Sky Above Clouds IV, which today hangs above a grand staircase at the Art Institute of Chicago. Like the previous three Sky Above Clouds iterations that O’Keeffe painted from 1962 to 1963, it depicts a field of “little oval white clouds” as seen from the window of an airplane. However, IV was a dramatic departure in scale from the previous versions — II and III each measure only four by seven feet. O’Keeffe, usually rather cagey about her creative process, vividly described how she undertook this project in the garage of her Ghost Ranch, New Mexico house — the only space she had large enough for the tremendous canvas. “I was up every morning at six and at work immediately — and I didn’t have my brushes washed until about nine in the evening. […] I had no visitors and I went nowhere.”

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