O'Keeffe not only used her natural surroundings at Lake George as a source of inspiration, she also mined the garden she maintained on the Stieglitz farm for fresh motifs and themes. In the summer of 1924, she began planting beds of blue and purple petunias in order to study their subtle, radiant hues. The growing of petunias that pivotal summer provided the impetus for her first enlarged floral painting, Petunia No. 2, an extraordinary prelude to the artist's flower paintings, long considered her most original contribution to twentieth-century art. O'Keeffe's preoccupation with petunias culminated in this 1925 canvas.
"Nobody sees a flower, really, it is so small. We haven't time - and to see takes time like to have a friend takes time. If I could paint the flower exactly as I see it no one would see what I see because I would paint it small like the flower is small. So I said to myself - I'll paint what I see - what the flower is to me but I'll paint it big and they will be surprised into taking time to look at it - I will make even busy New Yorkers take time to see what I see of flowers. ...Well, I made you take time to look at what I saw and when you took time to really notice my flower you hung all your own associations with flowers on my flower and you write about my flower as if I think and see what you think and see of the flower - and I don't.