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Artists Georgia O'Keeffe
Georgia O'Keeffe Photo

Georgia O'Keeffe

American Painter

Movements and Styles: American Modernist Painting, Proto-Feminist Artists

Born: November 15, 1887 - near Sun Prairie, Wisconsin

Died: March 6, 1986 - Santa Fe, New Mexico

Georgia O'Keeffe Timeline

Quotes

"I said to myself 'I have things in my head that are not like what anyone has taught me- shadows and ideas so near to me - so natural to my way of being and thinking that it hasn't occurred to me to put them down.' I decided to start anew, to strip away what I had been taught."
Georgia O'Keeffe
"It is easier for me to paint it than to write about it and I would so much rather people would look at it than read about it. I see no reason for painting anything that can be put into any other form as well."
Georgia O'Keeffe
"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'Keeffe
"I have but one desire as a painter - that is to paint what I see, as I see it, in my own way, without regard for the desires or taste of the professional dealer or the professional collector. I attribute what little success I have to this fact. I wouldn't turn out stuff for order, and I couldn't. It would stifle any creative ability I possess."
Georgia O'Keeffe
"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'Keeffe

"When you take a flower in your hand and really look at it, it's your world for the moment. I want to give that world to someone else."

Synopsis

Georgia O'Keeffe played a pivotal role in the development of American modernism and its relationship to European avante garde movements of the early-20th 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.

Key Ideas

O'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.

Biography

Georgia O'Keeffe Photo

Childhood and Early Training

Georgia O'Keeffe was born near Sun Prairie, Wisconsin in 1887, the second of seven children. She received early encouragement to study art from her mother and took watercolor lessons from a local artist, Sara Mann. O'Keeffe came from a family where female education was stressed and she was fortunate to attend the School of the Art Institute of Chicago from 1905 to 1906 where she studied with John Vanderpoel.

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Georgia O'Keeffe Biography Continues

Important Art by Georgia O'Keeffe

The below artworks are the most important by Georgia O'Keeffe - that both overview the major creative periods, and highlight the greatest achievements by the artist.

Blue II (1916)
Artwork Images

Blue II (1916)

Artwork description & Analysis: Blue II is indicative of O'Keeffe's early monochromatic drawings and watercolors, which evoke the movement of nature through abstract forms. While the curvilinear form in Blue II is reminiscent of a plant form, O'Keeffe was playing the violin during this period, and the shape likely captures the scroll-shaped end of the neck of the violin that would have been in O'Keeffe's line of sight as she played. The intense blue color suggests that she may have been familiar with Vasily Kandinsky's notion that visual art, like music, should convey emotion through the use of color and line. The intense blue perhaps suggests the sound of the music and the mood it evokes or expresses.

Watercolor on paper - Georgia O'Keeffe Museum

Petunia No. 2 (1924)
Artwork Images

Petunia No. 2 (1924)

Artwork description & Analysis: Petunia No. 2, one of O'Keeffe's first large-scale renderings of a flower, represents the beginning of her exploration of a theme that would mark her career. In this painting, she magnifies the flower's form to emphasize its shape and color. She stated that "nobody really sees a flower - really - it is so small - we haven't time - and to see takes time... So I said to myself - I'll paint what I see - what the flower is to me but I'll paint it big and they will be surprised into taking time to look at it." Her flower images often received interpretations that O'Keeffe disagreed with, particularly from feminist critics who saw these paintings as veiled illusions to female genitalia. For O'Keeffe, there was no hidden symbolism, just the essence of the flower. In fact, the anatomy of the petunia is incredibly detailed, and O'Keeffe may have been emphasizing the androgyny of the reproductive parts in order to counter the idea that her subject matter was connected to her gender. Though American and European artists had experimented with abstraction for at least a decade, O'Keeffe, like Dove, focused on images from nature and O'Keeffe was the only artist to consistently use flowers as a motif.

Oil on canvas - Georgia O'Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe

Radiator Building - Night, New York (1927)
Artwork Images

Radiator Building - Night, New York (1927)

Artwork description & Analysis: This painting illustrates O'Keeffe's skill in articulating architectural structures as well as her use of the highly realistic, yet simplified style of Precisionism. She uses the night backdrop to incorporate a play between structure and light, and between the straight lines of the architectural forms and the ethereal smoke, which is reminiscent of the folds of flowers. O'Keeffe's portrait of the Radiator Building, an Art Deco skyscraper that was completed just three years prior to the painting, presents an iconic image that captures the changing skyline of New York City that O'Keeffe often found claustrophobic. She depicts the building from a low vantage point to convey a sense of oppression with the building's towering presence over the viewer. The painting can also be read as a double portrait of Steiglitz and O'Keeffe; Stieglitz is represented by the Scientific American Building, as indicated by his name in red, and O'Keeffe by the Radiator Building. Object portraits of this type, influenced by the poetry of Gertrude Stein, were an important theme for artists of the Stieglitz Circle.

Oil on canvas - Fisk University, Nashville

More Georgia O'Keeffe Artwork and Analysis:

Cow's Skull: Red, White and Blue (1931) Black Place, Grey and Pink (1949) Sky above Clouds, IV (1965)


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Influences and Connections

Influences on Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Influenced by Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Georgia O'Keeffe
Interactive chart with Georgia O'Keeffe's main influences, and the people and ideas that the artist influenced in turn.
View Influences Chart

Artists

Arthur Wesley DowArthur Wesley Dow
Alon BementAlon Bement
Auguste RodinAuguste Rodin
Wassily KandinskyWassily Kandinsky

Personal Contacts

Charles SheelerCharles Sheeler
Alfred StieglitzAlfred Stieglitz
Paul StrandPaul Strand
Arthur DoveArthur Dove

Movements

PrecisionismPrecisionism
Asian ArtAsian Art
Art NouveauArt Nouveau
Modernism and Modern ArtModernism and Modern Art

Influences on Artist
Georgia O'Keeffe
Georgia O'Keeffe
Years Worked: 1907 - 1984
Influenced by Artist

Artists

Judy ChicagoJudy Chicago
Andy WarholAndy Warhol

Personal Contacts

Alfred StieglitzAlfred Stieglitz
Paul StrandPaul Strand
Arthur DoveArthur Dove

Movements

American Modernist PaintingAmerican Modernist Painting
PrecisionismPrecisionism
Feminist ArtFeminist Art

Useful Resources on Georgia O'Keeffe

Videos

Books

Websites

Articles

More

The books and articles below constitute a bibliography of the sources used in the writing of this page. These also suggest some accessible resources for further research, especially ones that can be found and purchased via the internet.
Georgia O'Keeffe A Portrait by Alfred Stieglitz

By Alfred Stieglitz

biography

Portrait of an Artist: A Biography of Georgia O'Keeffe

By Laurie Lisle

Georgia O'Keeffe: A Life

By Roxana Robinson

More Interesting Books about Georgia O'Keeffe
Before the Desert, A Greener Side

By Jesse McKinley
The New York Times
August 8, 2013

Stieglitz and O'Keeffe: Their Love and Life in Letters

By Susan Stamberg
NPR
July 21, 2011

In Full Flower, Before the Desert Recomended resource

By Holland Cotter
The New York Times
September 17, 2009

Painting a New Picture of Georgia O'Keeffe

By Candace Jackson
The Wall Street Journal
September 3, 2009

More Interesting Articles about Georgia O'Keeffe
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