Celebrating Women in History
To celebrate Women in History month, I feature Georgia O’Keefe. Wikipedia states that “Georgia Totto O’Keeffe was an American modernist artist. She was known for her paintings of enlarged flowers, New York skyscrapers, and New Mexico landscapes. O’Keeffe has been called the “Mother of American modernism”.
Alfred Stieglitz. Georgia O’Keeffe at “291”, 1917. Platinum print, 9 9/16 x 7 5/8 inches. Georgia O’Keeffe Museum. Gift of the Georgia O’Keeffe Foundation. [2003.1.1]
“Georgia O’Keeffe is one of the most significant artists of the 20th century, renowned for her contribution to modern art. Georgia O’Keeffe, the second of seven children, grew up on a farm near Sun Prairie, Wisconsin. By the time she graduated from high school in 1905, O’Keeffe had determined to make her way as an artist.”
The above excerpt from the O’Keefe Musuem’s website speaks of the artist humble beginnings as well as the recognition she achieved. She has inspired artists for many years, not only for her artistry, but for the way she lived her life. She was born on November 15, 1887, and died March 6, 1986.
She first studied traditional painting techniques and a few years later was introduced to revolutionary ways of thinking about art, that expression was more important than representation. This gave her the courage to follow her instincts in creating her true artistic voice. Less known is that she was also a photographer, taught art and camped alone.
She and her husband Alfred Stieglitz, himself a renowned photographer, led a somewhat unconventional lifestyle, according to the social morals of the time. She was an independent woman, not only did she travel by herself to summer in New Mexico, she transformed herself from a farm girl into a mysterious woman, austere but sophisticated in appearance, she was known as a woman of few words.
In 1972, O’Keeffe lost much of her eyesight due to macular degeneration, leaving her with only peripheral vision. She stopped oil painting without assistance in 1972. In the 1970s, she made a series of works in watercolor. Her autobiography, Georgia O’Keeffe, published in 1976 was a best seller.
This photo is undated and shows a painting by Georgia O’Keeffe, “Lake George Reflection.” Inspired by O’Keeffe’s visits to Alfred Stieglitz’s family compound on the upstate New York lake, the painting went to auction in 2016. Christie’s/Copyright 2016 Georgia O’Keeffe Museum/Artists Rights Society, New York, via AP
“O’Keeffe was one of the first female artists to achieve worldwide critical acclaim for her constantly evolving modernist style. While she experimented with abstract painting, she is remembered primarily for her magnified depictions of plant life and the outdoors, a theme that preoccupied her for the entirety of her career.” Artnet.com
Todd Webb, Georgia O’Keeffe with Camera, 1959, printed later. Inkjet print. Courtesy Todd Webb Archive. © Todd Webb Archive, Portland, Maine, USA
There is so much written about Georgia O’Keeffe, her life and work, that this only touches on a few of the reason I have admired her for so long. I encourage you to learn about her history and artistic journey from the earliest charcoal drawings to the landscapes of Canyon, Texas, where she taught art, to the skyscrapers of New York to New Mexico where her most recognized art was created.
Not only does Georgia O’Keeffe art works inspire me, but the way she lived her life, unafraid to go and do what she knew was right for her.
Georgia O’Keeffe Jimson Weed, White Flower No. 1 (1932). Courtesy of Tate Britain.
Recommended Books (shown in top photo) to enjoy her art and learn about her life:
Georgia Okeefe, An Eternal Spirit, by Susan Wright. This book documents her life as well as a pleasure to view her artworks’.
Okeefe; Selections from One Hundred Flowers, In The West, The New York Years. An extra large picture book for the joy of browsing.