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O’Keeffe Paintings Questioned

November 18, 1999

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ The authenticity of 28 watercolors attributed to Georgia O’Keeffe has been questioned by scholars producing the definitive catalog of her work.

The works _ vivid, abstract images of Texas desert _ are known as ``The Canyon Suite″ and hang in the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art here.

R. Crosby Kemper, the banker who purchased the works for display in his museum, was told about a month ago that they would be omitted from the ``catalogue raisonne,″ art historians’ term for definitive catalog, of O’Keeffe’s work.

The omission renders the works _ which had been purchased for $5.5 million _ virtually worthless in the art world.

The catalog is being produced by the National Gallery of Art in Washington and the Georgia O’Keeffe Foundation of Abiquiu, N.M.

Researchers believe the paper the watercolors are painted on is not authentic and that their style does not conform with the work of O’Keeffe, who died in 1986.

``They told us verbally that in some cases the paper didn’t seem to be right, and in some cases, stylistically (the watercolors) didn’t seem to be right,″ said Dan Keegan, the museum’s director.

Keegan said Tuesday that the museum’s own investigation is continuing, but has already determined that not all of the paintings date from 1916-1918, as was previously thought. The years were an early, groundbreaking period of O’Keeffe’s career.

Keegan said the works had withstood previous scrutiny by catalog author Barbara Buhler Lynes and Judith Walsh, senior paper conservator at the National Gallery.

Kemper told The Wall Street Journal last week that he thought exclusion from the catalog was retribution for his decision not to give the works to the National Gallery, a charge the museum denies.

The watercolors were purchased in 1993 from art dealer Gerald Peters, who has galleries in New York and Santa Fe. Peters has offered to buy them back.

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