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Georgia O'Keeffe

Georgia O'Keeffe

Overview
Georgia Totto O'Keeffe was an American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 art
Art
Art is the product or process of deliberately arranging items in a way that influences and affects one or more of the senses, emotions, and intellect....

ist.

Born near Sun Prairie, Wisconsin
Sun Prairie, Wisconsin
Sun Prairie is a city in Dane County in the U.S. state of Wisconsin. A suburb of Madison it is part of the Madison Metropolitan Statistical Area. The 2010 US Census estimates the city's population to be 29,364. It is the sixth-fastest growing city in Wisconsin, and the fastest-growing among cities...

, O'Keeffe first came to the attention of the New York art community in 1916, several decades before women had gained access to art training in America’s colleges and universities, and before any of its women artists were well known or highly celebrated. Within a decade, she had distinguished herself as one of America's most important modern artists, a position she maintained throughout her life.
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Quotations

I know I cannot paint a flower. I can not paint the sun on the desert on a bright summer morning but maybe in terms of paint color I can convey to you my experience of the flower or the experience that makes the flower of significance to me at that particular time.

Letter to William Milliken (1930), quoted in Laurie Lisle, Portrait of an Artist: A Biography of Georgia O'Keeffe, (1981), p. 128
Encyclopedia
Georgia Totto O'Keeffe was an American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 art
Art
Art is the product or process of deliberately arranging items in a way that influences and affects one or more of the senses, emotions, and intellect....

ist.

Born near Sun Prairie, Wisconsin
Sun Prairie, Wisconsin
Sun Prairie is a city in Dane County in the U.S. state of Wisconsin. A suburb of Madison it is part of the Madison Metropolitan Statistical Area. The 2010 US Census estimates the city's population to be 29,364. It is the sixth-fastest growing city in Wisconsin, and the fastest-growing among cities...

, O'Keeffe first came to the attention of the New York art community in 1916, several decades before women had gained access to art training in America’s colleges and universities, and before any of its women artists were well known or highly celebrated. Within a decade, she had distinguished herself as one of America's most important modern artists, a position she maintained throughout her life. As a result, O’Keeffe not only carved out a significant place for women painters in an area of the American art community that had been exclusive to and is still dominated by men, but also she had become one of America’s most celebrated cultural icons well before her death at age 98 in 1986.

Her abstract
Abstract art
Abstract art uses a visual language of form, color and line to create a composition which may exist with a degree of independence from visual references in the world. Western art had been, from the Renaissance up to the middle of the 19th century, underpinned by the logic of perspective and an...

 imagery of the 1910s and early 1920s is among the most innovative of any work produced in the period by American artists. She revolutionized the tradition of flower painting in the 1920s by making large-format paintings of enlarged blossoms, presenting them close up as if seen through a magnifying lens. And her depictions of New York buildings, most of which date from the same decade, have been recognized as among the most compelling of any paintings of the modern city. Beginning in 1929, when she first began working part of the year in Northern New Mexico—which she made her permanent home in 1949—O’Keeffe depicted subjects specific to that area. Through paintings of its unique landscape configurations, adobe churches, cultural objects, and the bones and rocks she collected from the desert floor, she ultimately laid claim to this area of the American Southwest, which earlier had been celebrated primarily by male artists; the area around where she worked and lived has become known as “O’Keeffe Country."

Early life



Georgia O'Keeffe was born November 15, 1887, in a farmhouse near Sun Prairie, Wisconsin
Sun Prairie, Wisconsin
Sun Prairie is a city in Dane County in the U.S. state of Wisconsin. A suburb of Madison it is part of the Madison Metropolitan Statistical Area. The 2010 US Census estimates the city's population to be 29,364. It is the sixth-fastest growing city in Wisconsin, and the fastest-growing among cities...

. Her parents, Francis Calyxtus O'Keeffe and Ida Totto O'Keeffe, were dairy farmers. Her father was of Irish descent. Ida Totto's father, George Victor Totto, for whom Georgia O'Keeffe was named, was a Hungarian count who came to America in 1848.

Georgia was the first female and the second of seven O'Keeffe children. O'Keeffe attended Town Hall School in Sun Prairie. By age ten she had decided to become an artist, and she and her sister received art instruction from local watercolorist Sara Mann. O'Keeffe attended high school at Sacred Heart Academy in Madison, Wisconsin
Madison, Wisconsin
Madison is the capital of the U.S. state of Wisconsin and the county seat of Dane County. It is also home to the University of Wisconsin–Madison....

, as a boarder between 1901 and 1902. In Fall 1902 the O'Keeffes moved from Wisconsin to the close-knit neighborhood of Peacock Hill
Peacock Hill
Peacock Hill is a small neighborhood located centrally in Williamsburg, Virginia. It is located immediately adjacent to the restored Historic Area of Colonial Williamsburg, consisting of the four blocks bounded by Lafayette, Prince George, Boundary, and Nassau Streets.-History:The name "Peacock...

 in Williamsburg
Williamsburg, Virginia
Williamsburg is an independent city located on the Virginia Peninsula in the Hampton Roads metropolitan area of Virginia, USA. As of the 2010 Census, the city had an estimated population of 14,068. It is bordered by James City County and York County, and is an independent city...

, Virginia
Virginia
The Commonwealth of Virginia , is a U.S. state on the Atlantic Coast of the Southern United States. Virginia is nicknamed the "Old Dominion" and sometimes the "Mother of Presidents" after the eight U.S. presidents born there...

. Georgia stayed in Wisconsin with her aunt and attended Madison High School, then joined her family in Virginia in 1903. She completed high school as a boarder at Chatham Episcopal
Episcopal Church (United States)
The Episcopal Church is a mainline Anglican Christian church found mainly in the United States , but also in Honduras, Taiwan, Colombia, Ecuador, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, the British Virgin Islands and parts of Europe...

 Institute in Virginia (now Chatham Hall
Chatham Hall
Chatham Hall is an all-girls college-preparatory boarding school located in Chatham, Virginia, United States. Graduating classes are fewer than forty students each year. The school was founded as Chatham Episcopal Institute in 1894, Chatham Hall. The athletics teams play in the Blue Ridge Conference...

), and graduated in 1905.

O'Keeffe studied at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago from 1905 to 1906. In 1907, she attended the Art Students League
Art Students League of New York
The Art Students League of New York is an art school located on West 57th Street in New York City. The League has historically been known for its broad appeal to both amateurs and professional artists, and has maintained for over 130 years a tradition of offering reasonably priced classes on a...

 in New York City, where she studied under William Merritt Chase
William Merritt Chase
William Merritt Chase was an American painter known as an exponent of Impressionism and as a teacher. He is also responsible for establishing the Chase School, which later would become Parsons The New School for Design.- Early life and training :He was born in Williamsburg , Indiana, to the family...

. In 1908, she won the League's William Merritt Chase still-life prize for her oil painting Mona Shehab (Dead Rabbit with Copper Pot). Her prize was a scholarship to attend the League's outdoor summer school at Lake George
Lake George (New York)
Lake George, nicknamed the Queen of American Lakes, is a long, narrow oligotrophic lake draining northwards into Lake Champlain and the St. Lawrence River Drainage basin located at the southeast base of the Adirondack Mountains in northern New York, U.S.A.. It lies within the upper region of the...

, New York. While in the city in 1908, O'Keeffe attended an exhibition of Rodin
Auguste Rodin
François-Auguste-René Rodin , known as Auguste Rodin , was a French sculptor. Although Rodin is generally considered the progenitor of modern sculpture, he did not set out to rebel against the past...

's watercolors at the 291
Little Galleries of the Photo-Secession
291 is the commonly known name for an internationally famous art gallery that was located at 291 Fifth Avenue in New York City from 1905 to 1917. Originally known as the "Little Galleries of the Photo-Secession", the gallery was created and managed by photographer Alfred Stieglitz.The gallery is...

, owned by her future husband, photographer Alfred Stieglitz
Alfred Stieglitz
Alfred Stieglitz was an American photographer and modern art promoter who was instrumental over his fifty-year career in making photography an accepted art form...

.

O'Keeffe abandoned the idea of pursuing a career as an artist in the fall of 1908, claiming that she could never distinguish herself as an artist within the mimetic tradition, which had formed the basis of her art training. She took a job in Chicago as a commercial artist. She did not paint for four years, and said that the smell of turpentine made her sick. She was inspired to paint again in 1912, when she attended a class at the University of Virginia
University of Virginia
The University of Virginia is a public research university located in Charlottesville, Virginia, United States, founded by Thomas Jefferson...

 Summer School, where she was introduced to the innovative ideas of Arthur Wesley Dow
Arthur Wesley Dow
Arthur Wesley Dow was an American painter, printmaker, photographer, and influential arts educator....

 by Alon Bement. Dow encouraged artists to express themselves using line, color, and shading harmoniously. From 1912-14, she taught art in the public schools in Amarillo
Amarillo, Texas
Amarillo is the 14th-largest city, by population, in the state of Texas, the largest in the Texas Panhandle, and the seat of Potter County. A portion of the city extends into Randall County. The population was 190,695 at the 2010 census...

 in the Texas Panhandle
Texas Panhandle
The Texas Panhandle is a region of the U.S. state of Texas consisting of the northernmost 26 counties in the state. The panhandle is a rectangular area bordered by New Mexico to the west and Oklahoma to the north and east...

. She attended Teachers College of Columbia University
Columbia University
Columbia University in the City of New York is a private, Ivy League university in Manhattan, New York City. Columbia is the oldest institution of higher learning in the state of New York, the fifth oldest in the United States, and one of the country's nine Colonial Colleges founded before the...

 from 1914–15, where she took classes from Dow, who greatly influenced O'Keeffe's thinking about the process of making art. She served as a teaching assistant to Bement during the summer from 1913–16 and taught at Columbia College, Columbia, South Carolina in the fall of 1915, where she completed a series of highly innovative charcoal abstractions. After further course work at Columbia in the spring of 1916 and summer teaching for Bement, she took a job as head of the art department at West Texas State Normal College from fall 1916 to February 1918, the fledgling West Texas A&M University
West Texas A&M University
West Texas A&M University , part of the Texas A&M University System, is a public university located in Canyon, Texas, a small city south of Amarillo. West Texas A&M opened on September 20, 1910...

 in Canyon
Canyon, Texas
Canyon is a city in Randall County, Texas, United States. The population was 12,875 at the 2000 census. It is the county seat of Randall County. It is the home of West Texas A&M University and Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum. Palo Duro Canyon State Park is some twelve miles east of Canyon...

 just south of Amarillo. While there, she often visited the Palo Duro Canyon
Palo Duro Canyon
Palo Duro Canyon is a canyon system of the Caprock Escarpment located in the Texas Panhandle near the city of Amarillo, Texas, United States. As the second largest canyon in the United States, it is roughly long and has an average width of , but reaches a width of at places. Its depth is around...

, making its forms a subject in her work.

New York



Early in 1916, Anita Pollitzer
Anita Pollitzer
Anita Lily Pollitzer was an American photographer.-Early life:Her mother, Clara Guinzburg Pollitzer , was the daughter of an immigrant rabbi from Prague. Her father, Gustave Pollitzer, ran a cotton company at Charleston, South Carolin...

 took some of the charcoal drawings O'Keeffe had made in the fall of 1915, which she had mailed to Pollitzer from South Carolina, to Alfred Stieglitz
Alfred Stieglitz
Alfred Stieglitz was an American photographer and modern art promoter who was instrumental over his fifty-year career in making photography an accepted art form...

 at his 291 gallery. He told Pollitzer that the drawings were the "purest, finest, sincerest things that had entered 291 in a long while", and that he would like to show them. O'Keeffe had first visited 291 in 1908, but did not speak with Stieglitz then, although she came to have high regard for him and to know him in the spring of 1916, when she was in New York at Teachers College. In April 1916, he exhibited ten of her drawings at 291. Although O'Keeffe knew that Stieglitz was planning to exhibit her work, he had not told her when, and she was surprised to learn that her work was on view; she confronted Stieglitz over the drawings but agreed to let them remain on exhibit. Stieglitz organized O'Keeffe's first solo show at 291 in April 1917, which included oil paintings and watercolors completed in Texas.

Stieglitz and O'Keeffe corresponded frequently beginning in 1916, and in June 1918, she accepted Stieglitz's invitation to move to New York to devote all of her time to her work. The two were deeply in love, and shortly after her arrival, they began living together, even though the then married Stieglitz was 23 years her senior. That year Stieglitz first took O'Keeffe to his family home at the village of Lake George
Lake George (village), New York
The Village of Lake George is a village within the town of Lake George in Warren County, New York, United States. The population was 985 at the 2000 census. It is part of the Glens Falls Metropolitan Statistical Area...

 in New York's Adirondack Mountains
Adirondack Mountains
The Adirondack Mountains are a mountain range located in the northeastern part of New York, that runs through Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Fulton, Hamilton, Herkimer, Lewis, Saint Lawrence, Saratoga, Warren, and Washington counties....

, and they spent part of every year there until 1929, when O'Keeffe spent the first of many summers painting in New Mexico. In 1924 Stieglitz's divorce was finally approved by a judge, and within four months he and O'Keeffe married. It was a small, private ceremony at Marin's house, and afterward the couple went back home. There was no reception, festivities or honeymoon. O'Keeffe said later that they married in order to help soothe the troubles of Stieglitz's daughter Kitty, who at that time was being treated in a sanatorium for depression and hallucinations. The marriage did not seem to have any immediate effect on either Stieglitz or O'Keeffe; they both continued working on their individual projects as they had before. For the rest of their lives together, their relationship was, as biographer Benita Eisler characterized it, "a collusion ... a system of deals and trade-offs, tacitly agreed to and carried out, for the most part, without the exchange of a word. Preferring avoidance to confrontation on most issues, O'Keeffe was the principal agent of collusion in their union."
Stieglitz started photographing O'Keeffe when she visited him in New York to see her 1917 exhibition. By 1937, when he retired from photography, he had made more than 350 portraits of her. Most of the more erotic photographs were made in the 1910s and early 1920s. In February 1921, forty-five of Stieglitz's photographs, including many of O'Keeffe, some of which depicted her in the nude, were exhibited in a retrospective exhibition at the Anderson Galleries that created a public sensation.

Beginning in 1918, O'Keeffe came to know the many early American modernists
American modernism
American modernism like modernism in general is a trend of thought that affirms the power of human beings to create, improve, and reshape their environment, with the aid of scientific knowledge, technology and practical experimentation, and is thus in its essence both progressive and optimistic...

 who were part of Stieglitz's circle of artists, including Charles Demuth
Charles Demuth
Charles Demuth was an American watercolorist who turned to oils late in his career, developing a style of painting known as Precisionism....

, Arthur Dove
Arthur Dove
Arthur Garfield Dove was an American artist. An early American modernist, he is often considered the first American abstract painter.-Youth and education:...

, Marsden Hartley
Marsden Hartley
Marsden Hartley was an American Modernist painter, poet, and essayist.-Early life and education:Hartley was born in Lewiston, Maine, where his English parents had settled. He was the youngest of nine children. His mother died when he was eight, and his father remarried four years later to Martha...

, John Marin
John Marin
John Marin was an early American modernist artist. He is known for his abstract landscapes and watercolors.-Biography:...

, Paul Strand
Paul Strand
Paul Strand was an American photographer and filmmaker who, along with fellow modernist photographers like Alfred Stieglitz and Edward Weston, helped establish photography as an art form in the 20th century...

 and Edward Steichen
Edward Steichen
Edward J. Steichen was an American photographer, painter, and art gallery and museum curator. He was the most frequently featured photographer in Alfred Stieglitz' groundbreaking magazine Camera Work during its run from 1903 to 1917. Steichen also contributed the logo design and a custom typeface...

. Strand's photography, as well as that of Stieglitz and his many photographer friends, inspired O'Keeffe's work. Soon after 1918, O'Keeffe began working primarily in oil, a shift away from having worked primarily in watercolor in the earlier 1910s. By the mid-1920s, O'Keeffe began making large-scale paintings of natural forms at close range, as if seen through a magnifying lens. In 1924 she painted her first large-scale flower painting Petunia, No. 2, which was first exhibited in 1925. She also completed a significant body of paintings of New York buildings, such as City Night and New York—Night, 1926, and Radiator Bldg—Night, New York, 1927.

O'Keeffe turned to working more representationally in the 1920s in an effort to move her critics away from Freudian interpretations. Her earlier work had been mostly abstract, but works such as Black Iris III (1926) evoke a veiled representation of female genitalia while also accurately depicting the center of an iris. Moreover, the centers of flowers are androgynous and can hardly be understood exclusively as feminine. O'Keeffe consistently denied the validity of Freudian interpretations of her art, but fifty years after it had first been interpreted in that way, many prominent feminist artists assessed her work similarly -- in essential terms -- such as Judy Chicago
Judy Chicago
Judy Chicago is a feminist artist, author, and educator.Chicago has been creating artwork since the mid 1960s. Her earliest forays into the art world coincided with the rise of Minimalism, which she eventually abandoned in favor of art she believed to have greater content and relevance...

, who gave O'Keeffe a prominent place in her The Dinner Party. Although 1970s feminists celebrated O'Keeffe as the originator of "female iconography", O'Keeffe rejected their celebration of her work and refused to cooperate with any of their projects. What they were saying sounded too much to her like what the men had written about it in the 1910s and 1920s and overlooked the larger issue: that her paintings reveal vital parallels between animate and highly sensual forces in nature and humans.

Beginning in 1923, Stieglitz organized annual exhibitions of O'Keeffe's work. By the mid-1920s, O'Keeffe had become known as one of the most important American artists. Her work commanded high prices; in 1928, Stieglitz masterminded a sale of six of her calla lily
Calla Lily
-Botany:* Calla, a genus of common flowering plant in the family Araceae, containing the single species Calla palustris, native to cool temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere...

 paintings for US$25,000, which was the largest sum ever paid for a group of paintings by a living American artist. Though the sale fell through, Stieglitz's promotion of the potential sale drew extensive media attention.

Hawaii


In 1938, the advertising agency N. W. Ayer & Son approached O'Keeffe about creating two paintings for the Hawaiian Pineapple Company (now Dole Food Company
Dole Food Company
Dole Food Company, Inc. is an American-based agricultural multinational corporation headquartered in Westlake Village, California. The company is the largest producer of fruits and vegetables in the world, operating with 74,300 full-time and seasonal employees who are responsible for over 300...

) to use in their advertising. Other artists who produced paintings of Hawaii for the Hawaiian Pineapple Company’s advertising include Lloyd Sexton, Jr.
Lloyd Sexton, Jr.
Lloyd Sexton, Jr. , who is also known as Leo Lloyd Sexton, Jr. was an American painter born in Hilo, Hawaii on March 24, 1912. In 1931 he entered the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. In 1933 he had a show of flower paintings at the Vose Galleries in Boston, followed by exhibitions at...

, Millard Sheets
Millard Sheets
Millard Owen Sheets was an American painter and a representative of the California School of Painting, later a teacher and educational director, and architect of more than 50 branch banks in Southern California.-Early life:...

, Yasuo Kuniyoshi
Yasuo Kuniyoshi
was an American painter, photographer and printmaker born in Okayama, Japan.He migrated to America in 1906, a year later began studying at the Los Angeles School of Art and Design. In 1935 he was awarded the Guggenheim Fellowship. He taught at the Art Students League of New York in New York City...

, Isamu Noguchi
Isamu Noguchi
was a prominent Japanese American artist and landscape architect whose artistic career spanned six decades, from the 1920s onward. Known for his sculpture and public works, Noguchi also designed stage sets for various Martha Graham productions, and several mass-produced lamps and furniture pieces,...

, and Miguel Covarrubias
Miguel Covarrubias
José Miguel Covarrubias Duclaud was a Mexican painter and caricaturist, ethnologist and art historian among other interests. In 1924 at the age of 19 he moved to New York City armed with a grant from the Mexican government, tremendous talent, but very little English speaking skill. Luckily,...

. She arrived in Honolulu February 8, 1939, aboard the SS Lurline
SS Lurline (1932)
SS Lurline was the third Matson Lines vessel to hold that name and the last of four fast and luxurious ocean liners that Matson built for the Hawaii and Australasia runs from the West Coast of the United States. Lurlines sister ships were , and...

, and spent nine weeks in Oahu
Oahu
Oahu or Oahu , known as "The Gathering Place", is the third largest of the Hawaiian Islands and most populous of the islands in the U.S. state of Hawaii. The state capital Honolulu is located on the southeast coast...

, Maui
Maui
The island of Maui is the second-largest of the Hawaiian Islands at and is the 17th largest island in the United States. Maui is part of the state of Hawaii and is the largest of Maui County's four islands, bigger than Lānai, Kahoolawe, and Molokai. In 2010, Maui had a population of 144,444,...

, Kauai
Kauai
Kauai or Kauai, known as Tauai in the ancient Kaua'i dialect, is geologically the oldest of the main Hawaiian Islands. With an area of , it is the fourth largest of the main islands in the Hawaiian archipelago, and the 21st largest island in the United States. Known also as the "Garden Isle",...

, and the island of Hawaii
Hawaii (island)
The Island of Hawaii, also called the Big Island or Hawaii Island , is a volcanic island in the North Pacific Ocean...

. She painted flowers, landscapes, and traditional Hawaiian fishhooks. However, she did not paint the requested pineapple until after the Hawaiian Pineapple Company sent a plant to her New York studio.

New Mexico



By 1929, O'Keeffe acted on her increasing need to find a new source of inspiration for her work and to escape summers at Lake George
Lake George (village), New York
The Village of Lake George is a village within the town of Lake George in Warren County, New York, United States. The population was 985 at the 2000 census. It is part of the Glens Falls Metropolitan Statistical Area...

, where she was surrounded by the Stieglitz family and their friends. O'Keeffe had considered finding a studio separate from Lake George in upstate New York and had also thought about spending the summer in Europe, but opted instead to travel to Santa Fe
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Santa Fe is the capital of the U.S. state of New Mexico. It is the fourth-largest city in the state and is the seat of . Santa Fe had a population of 67,947 in the 2010 census...

, with her friend Rebecca Strand. The two set out by train in May, 1929 and soon after their arrival, Mabel Dodge Luhan
Mabel Dodge Luhan
Mabel Evans Dodge Sterne Luhan , née Ganson was a wealthy American patron of the arts. She is particularly associated with the Taos art colony.-Early life:...

 moved them to her house in Taos
Taos, New Mexico
Taos is a town in Taos County in the north-central region of New Mexico, incorporated in 1934. As of the 2000 census, its population was 4,700. Other nearby communities include Ranchos de Taos, Cañon, Taos Canyon, Ranchitos, and El Prado. The town is close to Taos Pueblo, the Native American...

 and provided them with studios. O'Keeffe went on many pack trips exploring the rugged mountains and deserts of the region that summer and later visited the nearby D. H. Lawrence Ranch
D. H. Lawrence Ranch
The D. H. Lawrence Ranch, as it is now known, was the New Mexico home of the English novelist, D. H. Lawrence for about two years during the 1920s...

, where she completed her now famous oil painting, The Lawrence Tree, currently owned by the Wadsworth Athenaeum in Hartford
Hartford, Connecticut
Hartford is the capital of the U.S. state of Connecticut. The seat of Hartford County until Connecticut disbanded county government in 1960, it is the second most populous city on New England's largest river, the Connecticut River. As of the 2010 Census, Hartford's population was 124,775, making...

, Connecticut
Connecticut
Connecticut is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States. It is bordered by Rhode Island to the east, Massachusetts to the north, and the state of New York to the west and the south .Connecticut is named for the Connecticut River, the major U.S. river that approximately...

."

While in Taos in 1929, O'Keeffe visited and and painted the nearby historical St. Francis of Assisi Missionary at Ranchos de Taos
Ranchos de Taos, New Mexico
Ranchos de Taos is a census-designated place in Taos County, New Mexico, United States. The population was 2,390 at the 2000 census.-Geography:Ranchos de Taos is located at ....

. She made several paintings of the church, as had many artists, and her painting of a fragment of it silhouetted against the sky captured it in a different way.

Between 1929 and 1949, O'Keeffe spent part of nearly every year working in New Mexico. She collected rocks and bones from the desert floor and made them and the distinctive architectural and landscape forms of the area subjects in her work. She also went on several camping trips with friends, visiting important sites in the Southwest, and in 1961, she and others, including photographers Eliot Porter
Eliot Porter
Eliot Furness Porter was an American photographer best known for his color photographs of nature.-Early life:...

 and Todd Webb
Todd Webb
Todd Webb was an American photographer notable for documenting everyday life and architecture in cities such as New York, Paris as well as from the American west. His photography has been compared with Harry Callahan, Berenice Abbott, Walker Evans, and the French photographer Eugène Atget...

, went on a rafting trip down the Colorado River
Colorado River
The Colorado River , is a river in the Southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico, approximately long, draining a part of the arid regions on the western slope of the Rocky Mountains. The watershed of the Colorado River covers in parts of seven U.S. states and two Mexican states...

 about Glen Canyon
Glen Canyon
Glen Canyon is a canyon that is located in southeastern and south central Utah and northwestern Arizona within the Vermilion Cliffs area. It was carved by the Colorado River....

, Utah
Utah
Utah is a state in the Western United States. It was the 45th state to join the Union, on January 4, 1896. Approximately 80% of Utah's 2,763,885 people live along the Wasatch Front, centering on Salt Lake City. This leaves vast expanses of the state nearly uninhabited, making the population the...

.

Late in 1932, O'Keeffe suffered a nervous breakdown that was brought on, in part, because she was unable to complete a Radio City Music Hall
Radio City Music Hall
Radio City Music Hall is an entertainment venue located in New York City's Rockefeller Center. Its nickname is the Showplace of the Nation, and it was for a time the leading tourist destination in the city...

 mural project that had fallen behind schedule. She was hospitalized in early 1933 and did not paint again until January 1934. In the spring of 1933 and 1934, O'Keeffe recuperated in Bermuda
Bermuda
Bermuda is a British overseas territory in the North Atlantic Ocean. Located off the east coast of the United States, its nearest landmass is Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, about to the west-northwest. It is about south of Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, and northeast of Miami, Florida...

, and she returned to New Mexico in the summer of 1934. In August of that year, she visited Ghost Ranch
Ghost Ranch
Ghost Ranch is a retreat and education center located close to the village of Abiquiu in Rio Arriba County in north central New Mexico. The conference center and lodgings at Ghost Ranch are run by the Presbyterian Church but open to the general public.-History:Ghost Ranch is part of Piedra...

, north of Abiquiu
Abiquiú, New Mexico
Abiquiú, or Abiquiu is a small unincorporated town located in Rio Arriba County, in northern New Mexico in the southwestern United States, about 53 miles north of Santa Fe. In the 1730s, it was the third largest settlement in the New Mexico Territory...

, for the first time and decided immediately to live there; in 1940, she purchased a house on the ranch property. The varicolored cliffs of Ghost Ranch inspired some of her most famous landscapes. In 1977, O'Keeffe wrote: "[the] cliffs over there are almost painted for you -- you think -- until you try to paint them." Among guests to visit her at the ranch over the years were Charles and Anne Lindbergh
Charles Lindbergh
Charles Augustus Lindbergh was an American aviator, author, inventor, explorer, and social activist.Lindbergh, a 25-year-old U.S...

, singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell
Joni Mitchell
Joni Mitchell, CC is a Canadian musician, singer songwriter, and painter. Mitchell began singing in small nightclubs in her native Saskatchewan and Western Canada and then busking in the streets and dives of Toronto...

, poet Allen Ginsberg
Allen Ginsberg
Irwin Allen Ginsberg was an American poet and one of the leading figures of the Beat Generation in the 1950s. He vigorously opposed militarism, materialism and sexual repression...

, and photographer Ansel Adams
Ansel Adams
Ansel Easton Adams was an American photographer and environmentalist, best known for his black-and-white photographs of the American West, especially in Yosemite National Park....

.

Known as a loner, O'Keeffe explored the land she loved often in her Ford Model A, which she purchased and learned to drive in 1929. She often talked about her fondness for Ghost Ranch and Northern New Mexico, as in 1943, when she explained: "Such a beautiful, untouched lonely feeling place, such a fine part of what I call the 'Faraway'. It is a place I have painted before . . . even now I must do it again."

In the 1930s
1930s
File:1930s decade montage.png|From left, clockwise: Dorothea Lange's photo of the homeless Florence Thompson show the effects of the Great Depression; Due to the economic collapse, the farms become dry and the Dust Bowl spreads through America; The Battle of Wuhan during the Second Sino-Japanese...

 and 1940s
1940s
File:1940s decade montage.png|Above title bar: events which happened during World War II : From left to right: Troops in an LCVP landing craft approaching "Omaha" Beach on "D-Day"; Adolf Hitler visits Paris, soon after the Battle of France; The Holocaust occurred during the war as Nazi Germany...

, O'Keeffe's reputation and popularity continued to grow, earning her numerous commissions. Her work was included in exhibitions in and around New York. She completed Summer Days, a painting featuring a cow's skull adorned with various wildflowers, against a desert background in 1936, and it became one of her most famous and well-known works. During the 1940s O'Keeffe had two one-woman retrospectives, the first at the Art Institute of Chicago
Art Institute of Chicago
The School of the Art Institute of Chicago is one of America's largest accredited independent schools of art and design, located in the Loop in Chicago, Illinois. It is associated with the museum of the same name, and "The Art Institute of Chicago" or "Chicago Art Institute" often refers to either...

 (1943), and the second in 1946 at the Museum of Modern Art
Museum of Modern Art
The Museum of Modern Art is an art museum in Midtown Manhattan in New York City, on 53rd Street, between Fifth and Sixth Avenues. It has been important in developing and collecting modernist art, and is often identified as the most influential museum of modern art in the world...

 (MOMA) in Manhattan, the first retrospective MOMA held for a woman artist
Women artists
Women artists have been involved in making art in most times and places. Often certain certain media are associated with women, particularly textile arts; however, these gender roles in art change in different cultures and communities...

. O'Keeffe enjoyed many accolades and honorary degrees from numerous universities. In the mid-1940s, the Whitney Museum of American Art
Whitney Museum of American Art
The Whitney Museum of American Art, often referred to simply as "the Whitney", is an art museum with a focus on 20th- and 21st-century American art. Located at 945 Madison Avenue at 75th Street in New York City, the Whitney's permanent collection contains more than 18,000 works in a wide variety of...

 in Manhattan sponsored a project to establish the first catalogue of her work.

As early as 1936, O'Keeffe developed an intense interest in what is called the "Black Place", which was about 150 miles west of her Ghost Ranch house, and she made an extensive series of paintings of this site in the 1940s. She traveled and camped there often with her friend, Maria Chabot, and in 1945 with Eliot Porter
Eliot Porter
Eliot Furness Porter was an American photographer best known for his color photographs of nature.-Early life:...

 as well as in subsequent years, 1959, and 1977. O'Keeffe said that the Black Place resembled "a mile of elephants with gray hills and white sand at their feet." At times the wind was so strong when she was painting there that she had trouble keeping her canvas on the easel. When the heat from the sun became intense, she crawled under her car for shade. The Black Place still remains remote and uninhabited.

She also made paintings of the "White Place", a white rock formation located near her Abiquiu house. In 1945, O'Keeffe bought a second house, an abandoned hacienda
Hacienda
Hacienda is a Spanish word for an estate. Some haciendas were plantations, mines, or even business factories. Many haciendas combined these productive activities...

 in Abiquiu, some 18 miles (26 km) south of Ghost Ranch. The Abiquiu house was renovated through 1949 by Chabot.

Shortly after O'Keeffe arrived for the summer in New Mexico in 1946, Stieglitz suffered a cerebral thrombosis. She immediately flew to New York to be with him. He died on July 13, 1946. She buried his ashes at Lake George. She spent the next three years mostly in New York settling his estate, and moved permanently to New Mexico in 1949. From 1946 through the 1950s, she made the architectural forms of her Abiquiu house — patio wall and door — subjects in her work. Another distinctive painting of the decade was Ladder to the Moon, 1958. From her first world travels in the late 1950s, O'Keeffe produced an extensive series of paintings of clouds, such as Above the Clouds I, 1962/1963. These were inspired by her views from the windows of airplanes. Below is an external link to a color image of one of these aerial cloudscape canvases.

O'Keeffe met photographer Todd Webb
Todd Webb
Todd Webb was an American photographer notable for documenting everyday life and architecture in cities such as New York, Paris as well as from the American west. His photography has been compared with Harry Callahan, Berenice Abbott, Walker Evans, and the French photographer Eugène Atget...

 in the 1940s, and after his move to New Mexico in 1961, he often made photographs of her, as did numerous other important American photographers, who consistently presented O'Keeffe as a "loner, a severe figure and self-made person." While O'Keeffe was known to have a "prickly personality", Webb's photographs portray her with a kind of "quietness and calm" suggesting a relaxed friendship, and revealing new contours of O'Keeffe's character.

In 1962, O'Keeffe was elected to the fifty-member American Academy of Arts and Letters. She was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences
American Academy of Arts and Sciences
The American Academy of Arts and Sciences is an independent policy research center that conducts multidisciplinary studies of complex and emerging problems. The Academy’s elected members are leaders in the academic disciplines, the arts, business, and public affairs.James Bowdoin, John Adams, and...

 in 1966. In the fall of 1970, the Whitney Museum of American Art mounted the Georgia O'Keeffe Retrospective Exhibition, the first retrospective exhibition of her work in New York since 1946, the year Stieglitz died. This exhibit did much to revive her public career.

Later years and death


In 1972, O'Keeffe's eyesight was compromised by macular degeneration
Macular degeneration
Age-related macular degeneration is a medical condition which usually affects older adults and results in a loss of vision in the center of the visual field because of damage to the retina. It occurs in “dry” and “wet” forms. It is a major cause of blindness and visual impairment in older adults...

, leading to the loss of central vision and leaving her with only peripheral vision
Peripheral vision
Peripheral vision is a part of vision that occurs outside the very center of gaze. There is a broad set of non-central points in the field of view that is included in the notion of peripheral vision...

. She stopped oil painting without assistance in 1972, but continued working in pencil and charcoal until 1984. Juan Hamilton, a young potter, appeared at her ranch house in 1973 looking for work. She hired him for a few odd jobs and soon employed him full time. He became her closest confidante, companion, and business manager until her death. Hamilton taught O'Keeffe to work with clay, and working with assistance, she produced clay pots and a series of works in watercolor. In 1976, she wrote a book about her art and allowed a film to be made about her in 1977.
On January 10, 1977, President
President of the United States
The President of the United States of America is the head of state and head of government of the United States. The president leads the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces....

 Gerald R. Ford presented O'Keeffe with the Presidential Medal of Freedom
Presidential Medal of Freedom
The Presidential Medal of Freedom is an award bestowed by the President of the United States and is—along with thecomparable Congressional Gold Medal bestowed by an act of U.S. Congress—the highest civilian award in the United States...

, the highest honor awarded to American citizens. In 1985, she was awarded the National Medal of Arts
National Medal of Arts
The National Medal of Arts is an award and title created by the United States Congress in 1984, for the purpose of honoring artists and patrons of the arts. It is the highest honor conferred to an individual artist on behalf of the people. Honorees are selected by the National Endowment for the...

.

O'Keeffe became increasingly frail in her late 90s. She moved to Santa Fe in 1984, where she died on March 6, 1986, at the age of 98. In accordance with her wishes, she was cremated and her ashes were scattered to the wind at the top of the Pedernal Mountain, over her beloved "faraway".

Legacy


Following O'Keeffe's death, her family contested her will because codicils
Codicil (will)
A codicil is a document that amends, rather than replaces, a previously executed will. Amendments made by a codicil may add or revoke small provisions , or may completely change the majority, or all, of the gifts under the will...

 made to it in the 1980s had left all of her estate to Hamilton. The case was ultimately settled out of court in July 1987. The case became famous as case law in estate planning. A substantial part of her estate's assets were transferred to the Georgia O'Keeffe Foundation, which dissolved in 2006, leaving these assets to the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum
Georgia O'Keeffe Museum
The Georgia O'Keeffe Museum is a museum devoted to the work of the American artist Georgia O’Keeffe. It opened on 17 July 1997, eleven years after the artist's death, and is located at 217 Johnson Street in Santa Fe, New Mexico, United States.-History:...

, established in Santa Fe in 1997 to perpetuate O'Keeffe's artistic legacy. These assets included a large body of her work, photographs, archival materials, and her Abiquiu house, library, and property. The Georgia O'Keeffe Home and Studio
Georgia O'Keeffe Home and Studio
The Georgia O'Keeffe Home and Studio is a site significant for its architecture and its association with artist Georgia O'Keeffe, who purchased the Abiquiu, New Mexico property from the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Santa Fe in 1945, after attempting to buy it for some ten years...

 in Abiquiu was designated a National Historic Landmark
National Historic Landmark
A National Historic Landmark is a building, site, structure, object, or district, that is officially recognized by the United States government for its historical significance...

 in 1998 and is now owned by the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum
Georgia O'Keeffe Museum
The Georgia O'Keeffe Museum is a museum devoted to the work of the American artist Georgia O’Keeffe. It opened on 17 July 1997, eleven years after the artist's death, and is located at 217 Johnson Street in Santa Fe, New Mexico, United States.-History:...

.

In 2006, a fossilized species of archosaur
Archosaur
Archosaurs are a group of diapsid amniotes whose living representatives consist of modern birds and crocodilians. This group also includes all extinct non-avian dinosaurs, many extinct crocodilian relatives, and pterosaurs. Archosauria, the archosaur clade, is a crown group that includes the most...

 was named after O'Keeffe. Blocks originally quarried in 1947 and 1948 near O'Keeffe's home at Ghost Ranch were opened fifty years after being collected. The fossil strongly resembles ornithomimid dinosaurs, but are actually more closely related to crocodiles. The specimen was named Effigia okeeffeae
Effigia okeeffeae
Effigia was an archosaur that lived in what is now New Mexico. The 2 meter fossil was collected by Edwin H. Colbert in blocks of rock from the Ghost Ranch Quarry, which were excavated in 1947 and 1948...

("O'Keeffe's Ghost") in January 2006, "in honor of Georgia O'Keeffe for her numerous paintings of the badlands at Ghost Ranch and her interest in the Coelophysis
Coelophysis
Coelophysis , meaning "hollow form" in reference to its hollow bones , is one of the earliest known genera of dinosaur...

Quarry when it was discovered".

In 1991, the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) aired the American Playhouse
American Playhouse
American Playhouse is an anthology television series periodically broadcast by Public Broadcasting Service in the United States.It premiered on January 12, 1982 with The Shady Hill Kidnapping, written and narrated by John Cheever and directed by Paul Bogart...

 production
A Marriage: Georgia O'Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz, starring Jane Alexander
Jane Alexander
Jane Alexander is an American actress, author, and former director of the National Endowment for the Arts. Although perhaps best known for playing the female lead in The Great White Hope on both stage and screen, Alexander has played a wide array of roles in both theater and film and has committed...

 as Georgia O'Keeffe and Christopher Plummer
Christopher Plummer
Arthur Christopher Orne Plummer, CC is a Canadian theatre, film and television actor. He made his film debut in 1957's Stage Struck, and notable early film performances include Night of the Generals, The Return of the Pink Panther and The Man Who Would Be King.In a career that spans over five...

 as Alfred Stieglitz
Alfred Stieglitz
Alfred Stieglitz was an American photographer and modern art promoter who was instrumental over his fifty-year career in making photography an accepted art form...

. Lifetime Television
Lifetime Television
Lifetime Television, often referred to as Lifetime TV, or most commonly, Lifetime, is an American cable television specialty channel devoted to movies, sitcoms and dramas, all of which are either geared toward women or feature women in lead roles. The cable network is owned by A&E Television Networks...

 produced a biopic of Georgia O'Keeffe premiering on September 19, 2009, starring Joan Allen
Joan Allen
Joan Allen is an American actress. She worked in theatre, television and film during her early career, and achieved recognition for her Broadway debut in Burn This, winning a Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play in 1989.She has received three Academy Award nominations;...

 as O’Keeffe, Jeremy Irons
Jeremy Irons
Jeremy John Irons is an English actor. After receiving classical training at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, Irons began his acting career on stage in 1969, and has since appeared in many London theatre productions including The Winter's Tale, Macbeth, Much Ado About Nothing, The Taming of the...

 as Alfred Stieglitz
Alfred Stieglitz
Alfred Stieglitz was an American photographer and modern art promoter who was instrumental over his fifty-year career in making photography an accepted art form...

, Henry Simmons
Henry Simmons
Henry Oswald Simmons, Jr. is an American actor.-Life and career:Simmons was born in Stamford, Connecticut, the son of Aurelia, a school teacher, and Henry Simmons, Sr., an IRS agent. He is one of three children, including his twin sister, and another sister...

 as Jean Toomer
Jean Toomer
Jean Toomer was an American poet and novelist and an important figure of the Harlem Renaissance. His first book Cane is considered by many as his most significant.-Early life:...

, Ed Begley, Jr.
Ed Begley, Jr.
Edward James "Ed" Begley, Jr. is an American actor and environmentalist. Begley has appeared in hundreds of films, television shows, and stage performances. He is best known for his role as Dr. Victor Ehrlich, on the television series St...

 as Stieglitz' brother Lee, and Tyne Daly
Tyne Daly
Tyne Daly is an American stage and screen actress, widely known for her work as Detective Mary Beth Lacey in the television series Cagney & Lacey and as Maxine Gray in the television series Judging Amy. She is also known for her role as Alice Henderson in television series Christy...

 as Mabel Dodge Luhan
Mabel Dodge Luhan
Mabel Evans Dodge Sterne Luhan , née Ganson was a wealthy American patron of the arts. She is particularly associated with the Taos art colony.-Early life:...

.

A new exhibit of O'Keeffe's works at the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Santa Fe is the capital of the U.S. state of New Mexico. It is the fourth-largest city in the state and is the seat of . Santa Fe had a population of 67,947 in the 2010 census...

, New Mexico
New Mexico
New Mexico is a state located in the southwest and western regions of the United States. New Mexico is also usually considered one of the Mountain States. With a population density of 16 per square mile, New Mexico is the sixth-most sparsely inhabited U.S...

, which emphasizes her lesser-known abstract works, was on view from May 2010.

Writings

  • O’Keeffe, Georgia, Georgia O’Keeffe, New York: Viking Press, 1976. ISBN 0-670-33710-2
  • O'Keeffe, Georgia, Some Memories of Drawings, Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1988. ISBN 978-0826311139
  • Lovingly, Georgia: The Complete Correspondence of Georgia O'Keeffe & Anita Pollitzer (ed C.Giboire).Touchstone Books 1990 ISBN 978-0671692360
  • Giboire, Clive, ed. Lovingly, Georgia: The Complete Correspondence of Georgia O'Keeffe & Anita Pollitzer. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1990. ISBN 978-0671692372
  • Greenough, Sarah, ed. My Faraway One: Selected Letters of Georgia O’Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz: Volume One, 1915-1933. Annotated edition. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2011. ISBN 978-0300166309

Further reading

  • Georgia O'Keeffe Museum. About Georgia O'Keeffe
  • Haskell, Barbara, Barbara Buhler Lynes, et al., 2009. Georgia O'Keeffe: Abstraction'. New Haven, ISBN 9780300148176
  • Lynes, Barbara Buhler, 2007. Georgia O'Keeffe Museum Collections. New York. ISBN 9780810909571
  • Lynes, Barbara Buhler, Georgia O'Keeffe. Encyclopedia Britannica online
  • Lynes, Barbara Buhler, 1999. Georgia O'Keeffe: Catalogue Raisonné, London. ISBN 0300081766
  • Merrill, C.S., 2010. Weekends with O'Keeffe, University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque. ISBN 978-0-8263-4928-6
  • Messinger, Lisa Mintz, 2001. Georgia O'Keeffe, Thames & Hudson, London. ISBN 0-500-20340-7
  • O'Keeffe,Georgia, "The Marriage: Georgia O'Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz," American Playhouse
    American Playhouse
    American Playhouse is an anthology television series periodically broadcast by Public Broadcasting Service in the United States.It premiered on January 12, 1982 with The Shady Hill Kidnapping, written and narrated by John Cheever and directed by Paul Bogart...

    , PBS, 1991
  • Robinson, Roxana, 2000. O'Keeffe, Georgia. American National Biography Online
  • Robinson, Roxana, 1990. Georgia O'Keeffe: A Life, Bloomsbury, London. ISBN 0-7475-0557-8
  • Saville, Jennifer, Georgia O'Keeffe, Paintings of Hawai'i, Honolulu, Honolulu Academy of Arts, 1990, ISBN 0937426113

External links