Joan M. Rehlin
We’re highlighting Georgia Totto O’Keeffe (11/15/1887–3/6/1986) in this mini art history post. An American artist who is considered the Mother of American modernism, O’Keeffe decided at age 10 that she wanted to be an artist.
After receiving her first art instruction from a watercolorist in her hometown of Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, in 1905 O’Keeffe attended the Art Institute of Chicago. Then in 1907 she studied at the Art Students League in New York City, but O’Keefe felt constrained by her lessons there, which taught students to copy scenes in nature. While in New York City, O’Keeffe visited galleries such as 291, and met its co-owner Alfred Stieglitz. When her finances ran out, O’Keeffe worked as a commercial illustrator, 1909–’10. Then from 1911–’18, she taught in Virginia, Texas, and South Carolina. During that time, O’Keefe was introduced to the principles of creating works of art based on interpretation of subjects, rather than an attempt to copy them, and this caused a major shift in O’Keefe’s approach to art.
In 1917, art dealer and photographer Stieglitz held an exhibition of O’Keefe’s work, and at his request, she moved to New York to focus seriously on her art. Stieglitz provided financial support plus a New York residence and studio for O’Keefe. They developed a close professional as well as personal relationship which led to their marriage in 1924, and they lived together in New York until 1929. O'Keeffe then spent part of each year in the Southwest until Stieglitz, who was 23 years her senior, passed. At that point, O’Keefe lived permanently in New Mexico at the Georgia O’Keeffe Home and Studio in Abiquiu until the last several years of her life when she lived in Santa Fe.
By the mid-1920s O’Keeffe became well-known for her close-up paintings of natural objects. She painted about 200 large-scale flower images which appear to be viewed through a magnifying lens, and she’s quoted as saying: “I’ll paint what the flower is to me. I’ll paint it big and they’ll be surprised into taking the time to look at it.” She also created abstract art of New Mexico landscapes and New York skylines, and her work has been exhibited in New York and other locations. During the 1940s, she had two, one-woman retrospectives. The first was at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1943; the second, in 1946 at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in Manhattan where O’Keefe was the first woman to have a retrospective.
A popular artist who received a number of commissions, O’Keeffe holds the record for the highest price paid for a painting by a woman when, on November 20, 2014, her Jimson Weed sold for $44,405,000. Red Canna (shown here), which is one of O’Keefe’s flower paintings, is currently owned by Amon Carter Museum of American Art in Fort Worth, Texas.
Red Canna 1924, oil, Georgia O’Keefe
Welcome to our Art Blog where we occasionally present topics of interest in the fine art world, including featuring artists other than Jim Rehlin. Some of the artwork has been created by long-departed but well-known greats; some, by compelling contemporary artists. All will be pieces we find worthwhile to share with you. If you like any of these, consider sharing the posts forward to your own blogs and other social media.