They came from the collection of the artist Juan Hamilton who was a friend and confidante of O’Keeffe in later life, meeting her when he too settled in New Mexico.
The 95 lots on offer, which had passed down to Hamilton from O’Keeffe, not only included artworks and photographs but also personal items related to the couple and some artworks from artists associated with their circle.
The sale also featured a handful of works by Hamilton himself.
Before the auction on March 5, Yale University’s Beinecke rare book and manuscript library acquired a group of manuscripts and photographs from the collection in a private sale with Sotheby’s through the offices of the William Reese Company. They will join the library’s Alfred Stieglitz/ Georgia O’Keeffe archive.
The auction raised a hammer total of $14.2m. The highest prices were paid for O’Keeffe’s paintings, led by Nature Forms – Gaspé, a 10in x 2ft (26 x 61cm) oil on canvas painted in 1932 that was inspired by the natural forms she saw in Quebec’s Gaspé Peninsula, a place she first visited in that year.
Estimated at $4m-6m, the oil on canvas, which was signed with the artist’s initials, was hammered down for $5.8m (£4.5m).
The second-highest price was paid for a much later work by O’Keeffe.
This was a painting from 1977 titled From a Day with Juan 1, a reference to a trip that she made the year before with Hamilton to Washington, DC. The large, 3ft x 4ft oil (91cm x 1.22m) oil on canvas is an abstracted view of the Washington Monument set against a blue sky.
The painting was given by O’Keeffe to Hamilton and is inscribed on the backing board For Juan with RattleSnakes/and Love and appreciation/Georgia-/July 27-1977. It sold just over the upper end of the $1.2m-1.8m estimate at $2m (£1.55m).
Blue Road, a highly stylised interpretation of a New Mexico landscape painted in 1962, proved more popular than predicted. This smaller, 14 x 10in (36 x26cm) oil on canvas more than doubled the estimate to take $1.2m (£930,230).
The most expensive work by Steiglitz in the auction at $320,000 (£248,060) was Georgia O’Keeffe, Hand and Wheel, a 9½ x 7½in (24 x 19cm) gelatin silver print executed in 1933 which shows O’Keeffe’s braceleted hand against the tyre of her Ford V-8.
The sale also included a selection of O’Keeffe’s pottery, pieces that she made in later life working alongside Hamilton and the first to appear at auction.
These made much more than predicted, led by a spherical pot in lacquered stoneware from c.1980 that realised $48,000 (£37,210).
Keen bidding also emerged for some of Stieglitz’s and O’Keeffe’s personal possessions.
A large 19th century, six-panel Japanese screen from the Edo/Meiji period, decorated in ink and colours on gold paper with a pine tree among clouds and measuring 16ft 7in x 5ft 6in (5 x 1.68m), outpaced a $2000-3000 guide to take $50,000 (£38,760).
Three items of ethnographic art also dramatically outstripped expectations. Two of these were attractively provenanced anthropomorphic African spoons that Stieglitz had acquired in the early 20th century.
Both of them featured in an exhibition on African wood statuary held in 1914 when Western interest in African art was just beginning. The exhibition, put on in Stieglitz’s New York gallery, was the first in the US to show African sculpture as art on its own merit rather than as ethnographic specimens.
The two spoons, one by carved an artist of the Eshira, Lumbo or Punu peoples, and the other by a Guro or Bete artist, were both acquired by Stieglitz from the famous Paris collector dealer Paul Guillaume in whose possession they were by 1914.
The 7½in (19cm) Eshira/Punu spoon, dated to the late 19th or early 20th century and estimated at $3000- 5000, ended up selling for $40,000 (£31,000). The longer 9½in (24.5cm) Guro spoon, dated to the late 19th century and guided at $4000-6000, went for $55,000 (£42,635).
The third lot was an Oceanic piece: a 3ft 9in (1.1m) paddle-shaped carved wooden club from Fiji dated to the mid 19th century. Estimated at $2000-3000, this sold for $14,000 (£10,850).
£1 = $1.29