02 October 2023

Georgia O'Keeffe's Autumn Leaves

"The falling leaves drift by the window,
The autumn leaves of red and gold,"
     excerpt from  "Autumn Leaves," the English Lyrics by Johnny Mercer

Hints of red and gold circle the center of this early (1924) painting by Georgia O'Keeffe. This one reminds me of some transitional works by Piet Mondrian, the familiar pared down to its most basic elements.

Twenty-one years later Joseph Kosma, a Hungarian emigre to France, under house arrest and forbidden to compose, teamed up with French poet Jacques Prevert to write Les Feuilles mortes, known in English as Autumn Leaves. It was recorded by Yves Montand and more than a thousand others, making it one of the most successful songs  of the twentieth century. Kosma also wrote the scores for a number of French films,  including Jean Renoir's The Rules of the Game (1939), regarded by many film critics as the greatest film of the century. A scathing satire of wealthy people oblivious to the clouds of war gathering on the horizon, its message was subversive so it was cloaked in a love story.

Image: Georgia O'Keeffe - Autumn Leaves - The Maple, 1924, O'Keefe Museum, Santa Fe.


Tania said...

Colors also found in the bottom of the painting... Difficult to find maple leaves, but the song is beautiful, yes!

Jane A Librizzi said...

Tania, it's like a sideways look at leaves.