Who is Georgia O'Keeffe?
You might not consider the center of a flower inherently sexy, but one look at one of Georgia O'Keeffe's famous paintings might change your mind. Her sensual and intense treatment of subjects ranging from flowers to landscapes and architecture have made O'Keeffe a fixture of American art, and she is considered the mother of American Modernism, which is known for its self-consciousness, alienation, and departure from realism.
Early Life and Education
Georgia O'Keeffe was born 15 November 1887 near Sun Prairie, Wisconsin. By the age of ten, she had decided to become a painter, and embarked on an illustrious academic career that included training at The Art Institute of Chicago. By 1908, though, O'Keeffe felt that there was no way she could distinguish herself as an artist, and she ceased painting for four years while living and working in Chicago.
In 1912, O'Keeffe took a summer art class at The University of Virginia, which reawakened her love for painting. For two years after that, until 1914, O'Keeffe taught art at public schools in Amarillo, Texas. She continued her education at Columbia University, where she attended the Teachers College and learned more about producing art.
Artistic Career and Marriage
A series of O'Keeffe's early charcoal works were displayed in New York City in 1916 at the famous 291 Gallery, under the curatorship of owner and renowned photographer Alfred Stieglitz. O'Keeffe and Stieglitz formed a close friendship. They began regularly corresponding with one another and soon fell in love, although Stieglitz was still married.
In 1918, O'Keeffe moved to New York to pursue her art full-time at Stieglitz's behest. He soon divorced his wife, and he and O'Keeffe were married in 1924. The pair maintained a solid but detached partnership, often living independently of one another. O'Keeffe expressed this same detachment in regard to the intimate series of photographs that Stieglitz took of her throughout the course of her marriage (numbering over 350 in total), stating that she hardly recognized the woman in the photographs.
During the 1920s, O'Keeffe produced many of the famous large-scale floral paintings for which she is so widely known, which depicted the centers of flowers as though magnified. Most people don't know that, despite the sensual and Freudian interpretation of her works as representations of female genitalia, O'Keeffe herself rejected these analyses. Later, during the rise of second wave feminism in the 1970s, feminist scholars would hail O'Keeffe's flower paintings as icons of femininity. O'Keeffe bristled at this attention, however, and flatly refused to describe her work as feminist art.
In the late 1920s, O'Keeffe sought to escape her surroundings in New York City, and she traveled with a friend to Santa Fe in 1929. She quickly fell in love with the region and its sparse but gorgeous landscape. She moved into her home at Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu, New Mexico, in 1940.
Just like the sense of profound simplicity that infuses her paintings, O'Keeffe lived a solitary life at Ghost Ranch, where she would often get in her car and drive through the vast expanses of northern New Mexico, painting its landscapes and collecting artifacts from her explorations.
Artistic Direction in Later Years
After Stieglitz died in 1946, O'Keeffe began focusing her painting on architectural elements of her home at Ghost Ranch, including her garden wall and favorite door. Although her solitary lifestyle had given her a reputation for being a little misanthropic and unwelcoming, photographer Todd Webb's series of photographs of O'Keeffe in the 1940s helped convey the painter's sense of quiet strength and calm.
O'Keeffe was a member of both the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1977. Movies about her life were released in both 1977 and 1991.
In 1972, O'Keeffe began losing most of her eyesight, and she turned to watercolor and pottery as her primary forms of artistic expression. She died on 6 March 1986 in Santa Fe, and her ashes were spread over the New Mexican landscape she so adored.
Georgia O'Keeffe was born in 1887 in Wisconsin. She wanted to be an artist from an early age, and taught art in public schools in Texas. In 1916, O'Keeffe's works were first exhibited in New York City, and she formed a close friendship with the gallery's owner, renowned photographer Alfred Stieglitz. The pair later married in 1924. Throughout the 1920s, O'Keeffe produced the series of large-scale floral paintings that she is best known for. Although she spent time in New Mexico regularly beginning in the late 1920s, she moved to her home at Ghost Ranch in 1940. She lived a solitary life, and her art from that period forward focused on the bare and enchanting New Mexican landscape. By 1972, the artist had sadly lost most of her eyesight, and she died in 1986 in Santa Fe.
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Georgia O'Keeffe: Paintings & Biography Quiz
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O'Keeffe married famous photographer _______.
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