Banyan Tree: by Georgia O’Keefe (1934) pencil on paper. *Image courtesy of Masterworks
Banyan Tree: by Georgia O’Keefe (1934) pencil on paper. *Image courtesy of Masterworks

In 1987 my colleague Tom Butterfield persuaded Hirschl and Adler Galleries Inc. in New York to loan the Georgia O’Keeffe pencil drawing to him for the Community and Cultural Affairs exhibition entitled Interiors.  

The work attracted literally thousands of visitors and paved the way for the creation of the Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art. 

The work was eventually acquired by Masterworks in 1992 through the efforts of Tom running the London Marathon and a generous donation in memory of the untimely death of our friend Wendy Wilkinson. 


O’Keeffe visited Bermuda twice — the first time in March 1933 to recuperate from severe depression.

She stayed at “Torwood” adjacent to Cambridge Beaches with her friend Marjorie Content (whose lovely photograph of Banana Flower is currently on exhibit in the Drawing with Light show) but did little more than rest. 

She returned again the following March 1934, and stayed at “The Parapet” in Somerset with Marie Garland the owner at the time. 

It was here that she began work again. As Laurie Lisle says in Portrait of an Artist: A Biography of Georgia O’Keeffe, “From the high four poster bed in her room she was able to glimpse the sea…. 

“Although she had packed tubes of paint, she only got to the point of doing some pencil and charcoal sketches of the reddish-purple banana blossoms on the grounds of the beautiful villa and some palms and twisted  banyan trees. Still it was a start.”

Elise Outerbridge is curator at Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art.