Georgia O*Keefe

"Nothing is less real than realism. Details are confusing. It is
only by selection, by elimination, by emphasis, that we get at
the real meaning of things."
Georgia O’Keefe
"Color is one of the great things in the world that makes life
worth living to me and as I have come to think of painting it is
my efforts to create an equivalent with paint color for the world,
life as I see it." – Georgia O’Keefe
Georgia O’Keefe
• produced more than 2000 works over the course
of her career.
• she is the most important and influential American
• for nearly a century, O’Keeffe’s representations of
the beauty of the American landscape were a
brave counterpoint to the chaotic images
embraced by the art world.
• her cityscapes and still-life filled the canvas with
wild energy that gained her a following among the
critics as well as the public.
• she has had many imitators, but no one has been
able to paint with such intimacy and stark
Georgia O’Keefe married a
photographer, Alfred
He took over 300 intimate pictures of her, including some nudes, and they
were included in a gallery show. A short while later, she had her own
exhibit, with paintings like those below, and her reputation as being
overly sexual began. She was horrified and stunned by this response–this
is simply how she saw nature. With colors, and openings, and softness.
Her reaction
was to abandon
art and depict
the obvious. A
pear is a pear.
And her beloved flowers were merely
that: flowers. But critics still assigned
sexuality to them.
So she gave up on the critics and
painted what she felt. At first, it was
flowers. She chose to enlarge flowers
to put them at scale with the
explosion of large buildings in New
York during the 1920s. She presumed
that people would be startled by such
large flowers and be compelled to
look. She was right.
O’Keeffe had an intense
emotional connection
with nature and a
compulsive need to
create its equivalent in
art.* She loved this
mountain intensely,
viewed from her
property, and wrote to a
friend that “G-d told me
if I painted the mountain
enough, He would give it
to me.”
• GEORGIA O'KEEFFE KEY IDEASO'Keeffe incorporated the techniques of other artists and
was especially influenced by Paul Strand's use of cropping in his photographs; she was
one of the first artists to adapt the method to painting by rendering close-ups of
uniquely American objects that were highly detailed yet abstract.
• O'Keeffe did not follow any specific artistic movement, but like Arthur Dove she
experimented with abstracting motifs from nature. She worked in series, synthesizing
abstraction and realism to produce works that emphasized the primary forms of nature.
While some of these works are highly detailed, in others, she stripped away what she
considered the inessential to focus on shape and color.
• Through intense observation of nature, experimentation with scale, and nuanced use of
line and color, O'Keeffe's art remained grounded in representation even while pushing at
its limits. From the 1940s through the 1960s in particular, O'Keeffe's art was outside the
mainstream as she was one of the few artists to adhere to representation in a period
when others were exploring non-representation or had abandoned painting altogether.
• Georgia O'Keeffe played a pivotal role in the development of
American modernism and its relationship to European avante garde
movements of the early twentieth century. Producing a substantial
body of work over seven decades, she sought to capture the emotion
and power of objects through abstracting the natural world. Alfred
Stieglitz identified her as the first female American modernist, whose
paintings of flowers, barren landscapes, and close-up still lifes have
become a part of the mythology and iconography of the American
artistic landscape.
Georgia O’Keefe
Music pink and blue II
Oil on Canvas
59. Georgia O’Keefe
Black Mesa Landscape, New Mexico
Oil on canvas
A Sense of Place documents O'Keeffe's extraordinary ability to
capture the contours, colors, and textures of the land that
fascinated her while remaining true to her life-long interest in
and commitment to exploring issues of abstraction.
59. Georgia O'Keeffe
Ram's Head, Blue Morning Glory
1938. Oil on canvas.
• Teaching in South Carolina was Arthur Dow, a specialist in Oriental Art. Dow’s interest in non-European
art helped O’Keeffe move away from the forms she had found so stifling in her previous studies. She said
of him, “It was Arthur Dow who affected my start, who helped me to find something of my own.” Soon
after O’Keeffe’s return to Texas, she made a handful of charcoal drawings, which she sent to a friend in
New York. The friend, Anna Pollitzer, showed them to Alfred Stieglitz, a photographer and gallery owner.
He was enthused with the vibrant energy of the work, and asked to show them. So, without her
knowledge, Georgia O’Keeffe had her first exhibition in 1916 at Steiglitz’s “291 Gallery.”
• Within two years, Steiglitz had convinced O’Keeffe to move to New York and devote all of her time to
painting. His regular presentations of her work had begun to cause a buzz, and create for a her a small
following. Six years later the two were married, beginning one of the most fruitful and well-known
collaborations of the modernist era. For the next twenty years the two would live and work together,
Steiglitz creating an incredible body of portraits of O’Keeffe, while O’Keeffe showed new drawings and
paintings nearly every year at the gallery. Living in Lake George, New York, and in New York City, O’Keeffe
painted some of her most famous work. During the 1920s, her large canvasses of lush overpowering
flowers filled the still lifes with dynamic energy and erotic tension, while her cityscapes were testaments
to subtle beauty within the most industrial circumstances.
• In 1929 O’Keeffe took a vacation with her friend Beck Strand to Taos, New Mexico. The trip would
forever alter the course of her life. In love with the open skies and sun-drenched landscape, O’Keeffe
returned every summer to travel and to paint. When Steiglitz in 1946 died, O’Keeffe took up permanent
residence there. More than almost any of her other works, these early New Mexico landscapes and still
lifes have come to represent her unique gifts. The rich texture of the clouds and sky were similar to her
earlier, more sensuous representations of flowers. But beneath these clouds one found the bleached
bones of animals long gone.