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Georgia O'Keeffe

 (1887 - 1986)
Georgia O'Keeffe was active/lived in New Mexico, New York.  Georgia OKeeffe is known for Abstract botanical and landscape structure painting.

Georgia O'Keeffe

    oh-KEEF    click to hear

Biography from the Archives of askART

Georgia Totto O'Keeffe was born on November 15,1887 in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, the second of seven children of Francis Calyxtus O'Keeffe and Ida Totto O'Keeffe.  Her father was Irish, her mother Hungarian.  She spent her childhood years on the family's 600-acre dairy farm and she made her first drawings while attending parochial schools in Wisconsin and Virginia.  She studied at the school of the Art Institute of Chicago during 1905 and 1906.  Following that she went to New York City, attending classes at the Art Students League with William Merrit Chase and Kenyon Cox during the years 1907 and 1908.

In 1908, O'Keeffe moved to Chicago to work as a commercial artist.  She initially supported herself by drawing lace and embroidery for advertisements.  However, in 1910, when her eyesight began to suffer after a bout of measles, she gave up her commercial work and joined her family who had relocated to Charlottesville, Virginia; they had hoped that the warmer climate would be beneficial to Mr. O'Keeffe's health.  Two years later she revived her interest in painting when she visited Alon Bement's art classes at the University of Virginia.  Bement introduced O'Keeffe to the theories of Arthur Wesley Dow.  O'Keeffe moved to Amarillo, Texas to teach art in a local public school.  However in 1914 she returned to New York in order to study with Dow at Columbia Teachers College.

In 1915 she was teaching art at Columbia College in Columbia, South Carolina; she produced a series of abstract charcoal drawings there and her friend Anita Pollitzer showed them to dealer-photographer Alfred Stieglitz.  He gave O'Keeffe her first solo exhibition at his avant-garde gallery, 291.  During the same year, she began posing for him, resulting in some of the most remarkable photographs in history.

In 1924 she married Stieglitz who was sixty years old.  They were very much in love and the photographs he took of her, which ranged from prim schoolteacher to provocative nudes, were a great poem of love.  Yet throughout their marriage she remained true to herself.  She wanted to live in the West; he would not live there, so she spent her summers in New Mexico and her winters in New York City with him. They wrote to each other regularly (3400 letters altogether) and he continued to show her work in his gallery.  One aspect of their relationship that undoubtedly kept them apart was his refusal to allow her to have children.  Gradually, their intimacy waned. In the summer of 1946 she received word while in New Mexico that Stieglitz was in a coma.

She returned to New York and spent the next day searching for a simple pine coffin. After tearing out its offensive pink satin lining, she stitched in one of pure white linen. She took two years to settle his estate and then moved permanently to New Mexico.

O'Keeffe first went to New Mexico in 1929 as the guest of famed patron of the arts Mabel Dodge Luhan.  After Stieglitz's death she settled in Abiquiu, a house that was almost inhabitable but was high on a plateau and she had fallen in love with it and the surrounding countryside.  After much negotiating, she was able to buy the property for $10.  Since 1934 she had lived and painted at Ghost Ranch and she continued that practice while Abiquiu was being refurbished.

She stopped painting regularly when her eyesight began to fail in the early 1970s. Juan Hamilton, a sculptor and ceramist began working as her assistant and companion in 1972; he tried to interest her in making pottery, but was not very successful.  He was a married man with two children, earnest and sincere although inclined to be arrogant.  But he was a great help to her in every possible way and he worked for her for fourteen years.

O'Keeffe became more frail, less able to see; she had two nurses caring for her needs which were minimal.  She died at the age of ninety-eight on March 7, 1986.

Written and submitted by Jean Ershler Schatz, artist and researcher from Laguna Woods, California.

From the internet, and
Mark Stevens in Newsweek Magazine, March 17, 1986
American Artist magazine, January 1976
Article by Hunter Drohojowska in ARTnews magazine, Summer 1986
2 articles in Architectural Digest (dates unknown)
The Battle Over Georgia O'Keeffe's Multimillion-Dollar Legacy by Andrew Decker in ARTnews magazine, April 1987
Days With Georgia by Christine Taylor Patten and Alvaro Cardona-Hine

Biography from the Archives of askART
Born and raised in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, Georgia O'Keeffe became one of the first American modernists, the first woman to gain recognition for that style, and a signature painter of Southwest landscape and structures.  Although she was by far the most famous, other members of her family were artists including sisters Catherine Blanche O'Keeffe and Ida Ten Eyck O'Keeffe, and a grandmother, Mary Catherine O'Keeffe.

She went to the Art Institute of Chicago in 1905-06 and studied with John Vanderpoel.  She then attended the Art Students League in New York under William Merritt Chase, Kenyon Cox, and F. Luis Mora.  At this time in New York, she first became aware of modernist art.  Although O'Keeffe was an award-winning artist at the League, she quit painting from 1908 to 1912 to work as a commercial artist.

In 1912, she attended classes at the University of Virginia and became aware of the ideas of Arthur Wesley Dow, well known art educator.  She then went to Amarillo, Texas as the Supervisor of Public School Art and in 1914, returned to New York City and studied with Dow.  She adopted his ideas that painting was a "filling of space in a beautiful way" (Baigell, Dictionary), and from that time, did abstract drawings and paintings, many of them spare in color and form.

Her talents were "discovered" by photographer-gallery owner Alfred Stieglitz, who saw that she got established with the New York avant garde.  However, she spent two more years, 1916 to 1918, in Texas, heading the art department at West Texas State Normal School in Canyon.  The landscape there inspired many colorful canyon and plains landscapes.  Returning to New York, she married Stieglitz and frequently accompanied him to Lake George in upstate New York.  In 1924, she began to paint the botanicals, which became a signature part of her work.  In the 1920s, she also did a series of New York City skyscraper scenes.

In 1929, she first went to the Southwest and visited each summer until her husband died in 1946, when she became a permanent resident.  She settled in Abiquiu and produced the landscape and architectural paintings for which she is best known.  Her style is austere as was her lifestyle; she dressed simply and followed a regular routine that nourished her creativity.  In her later years, she was assisted by sculptor Juan Hamilton, who encouraged her in sculpture and managed her business affairs and administered her estate after she died.

The Georgia O'Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe is an ongoing tribute to one of America's most unique artists.

Matthew Baigell, Dictionary of American Art
Peter Hastings Falk, Editor, Who Was Who in American Art

Biography from Spanierman Gallery
Recognized as America's most celebrated woman painter, Georgia O'Keeffe created a highly original body of work ranging from lyrical nature studies and depictions of magnified blossoms to striking portrayals of the dry, arid desert of New Mexico. Along with her husband Alfred Stieglitz, she was an influential member of the New York art scene during the 1920s and 1930s, playing a vital role in the development of modernism in the United States.  Her formal inventiveness, coupled with her enduring love of nature, have given us some of the most beloved images in the history of American art.

Born in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, to Francis Calyxtus O'Keeffe and Ida (Totto) O'Keeffe, O'Keeffe spent her childhood years on the family's 600-acre dairy farm. She made her first drawings while attending parochial schools in Wisconsin and Virginia.

Intent on pursuing an artistic career, O'Keeffe studied at the school of the Art Institute of Chicago during 1905-1906, working under John Vanderpoel and others. Following this she went to New York, attending classes at the Art Students League with William Merritt Chase, F. Luis Mora, and Kenyon Cox during 1907-1908.

In the autumn of 1908, O'Keeffe moved to Chicago to work as a commercial artist. She initially supported herself by drawing lace and embroidery for advertisements. However, in 1910, when her eyesight began to suffer after a bout of measles, she gave up her commercial work and joined her family who had relocated to Charlottesville, Virginia.

O'Keeffe's interest in painting was revived during the summer of 1912, after visiting Alon Bement's art classes at the University of Virginia.  An instructor from Columbia Teacher's College in New York, Bement introduced O'Keeffe to the artistic theories of Arthur Wesley Dow, a noted painter and printmaker whose style was influenced by Oriental art and aesthetics.

Later that year, O'Keeffe moved to Amarillo, Texas to work as an art supervisor and teacher in a local public school.  However, in 1914 she returned to New York in order to study with Dow at Columbia Teachers College.  As well as inspiring her penchant for abstract form, decorative patterning and harmonious colors, Dow instilled in her an enduring concern for "filling a space in a beautiful way."

Other seminal influences on O'Keeffe during this period included Wassily Kandinsky's recently published essay, Concerning the Spiritual in Art (1914), which stressed the importance of conveying the artist's inner emotions, and Arthur Dove's early nature abstractions, which she saw in Jerome Eddy's book, Cubists and Post-Impressionism (1914).

While teaching art at Columbia College in Columbia, South Carolina in 1915, O'Keeffe produced a series of abstract charcoal drawings and watercolors inspired by her association with Dow.  In January of 1916, her friend Anita Pollitzer brought them to the attention of the dealer-photographer Alfred Stieglitz, evoking the now legendary response "At last, a woman on paper!"

A champion of such modernist painters and photographers as Dove, Marsden Hartley, John Marin and Paul Strand, Stieglitz gave O'Keeffe her first solo exhibition at his avant-garde gallery, 291, in 1917.  During that same year, she also began posing for him, their collaboration resulting in some of the most remarkable portraits in the history of American photography.

At Stieglitz's urging, O'Keeffe moved back to New York in June of 1918.  In the ensuing years, he continued to exhibit her work at his various galleries, providing her with subsidies that allowed her to paint.  In 1924, they married in Cliffside Park, New Jersey, the painter John Marin acting as witness to the ceremony.

During the late teens and 1920s, O'Keeffe painted nature abstractions based on the annual summer trips she and Stieglitz made to Lake George in upstate New York. She also painted views of Manhattan skyscrapers, exploring such formal concerns as light-dark patterning and flat planes.  She went on to create such breathtaking urban nocturnes as "City Night" (1926; The Minneapolis Institute of Arts) and "Radiator Building-Night, New York" (1927; The Carl Van Vechten Gallery of Fine Arts, Fisk University, Nashville. Alfred Stieglitz Collection).

O'Keeffe had her first large solo exhibition at the Anderson Galleries in New York in 1923.  The show, which featured one hundred oils and works on paper, attracted such eminent patrons and collectors as Duncan Phillips, who purchased The Shanty, a view of O'Keeffe's studio at Lake George.  She also commanded the attention of critics such as Henry McBride, who went on to become of her most avid supporters. In his review in the New York Herald, McBride noted her bold and very personal vision, stating: "She is interested but not frightened at what you will say . . . It represents a great stride, particularly for an American. The result is a calmness . . . There is a great deal of clear, precise, unworried painting."

In 1924, inspired by the Precisionist photography of Paul Strand, O'Keeffe began painting close-ups of flowers and plants, allowing her simplified forms to fill the entire canvas, pulsating with the rhythms and energies of nature.  While many critics and commentators interpreted canvases such as "Black Iris III" (1926; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. The Alfred Stieglitz Collection) as sexual metaphors, O'Keeffe always denied the presence of symbolism in her paintings, preferring to focus on their formal qualities instead.

O'Keeffe made her first visit to New Mexico in 1929. Fascinated by the artistic possibilities of the parched empty desert, she visited and painted in Taos each summer.  In 1949, three years after Stieglitz's death, she settled permanently in Abiquiu, forty miles from Taos.  O'Keeffe's New Mexico subjects--sun-baked animal bones, canyons, mountains and churches--constitute some of her best known work. During the 1970s, O'Keeffe turned her attention to modeling in clay, creating hand-crafted pots that echoed the simplified shapes found in her paintings.  Assisted by the ceramic artist Juan Hamilton, she also supervised the production of elegant, curvilinear sculptures based on plasters she had made earlier in her career.

Prior to settling in New Mexico, O'Keeffe had retrospective exhibitions at the Brooklyn Museum (1927), the Art Institute of Chicago (1943) and the Museum of Modern Art in New York (1946).  She had also been elected to the National Institute of Arts and Letters.  Important retrospectives of her work were organized in 1960 (Worcester Art Museum), 1966 (Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth, Texas) and 1970 (Whitney Museum of American Art, New York).  Rediscovered by the women's movement of the 1970s, O'Keeffe went on to reap additional awards and honors including the National Institute of Arts and Letters gold medal for painting (1970), an honorary degree from Harvard University (1973), and the Medal of Freedom, America's highest civilian honor, awarded by President Gerald Ford in 1979.

O'Keeffe died in Santa Fe in 1986.  One year later, the centennial of her birth was commemorated by a major retrospective exhibition organized by the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.  Her impressive accomplishments have been memorialized in the numerous books and catalogues that have been published on her, and by the establishment, in 1989, of the Georgia O'Keeffe Foundation.

Biography from Thomas Nygard Gallery
GEORGIA O'KEEFFE (1887-1986)

From her birth on a farm near Sun Prairie, Wisconsin to her death in 1986 at the age of 98, Georgia O'Keeffe embodied the feminine principle and she herself became a symbol of the new uninhibited woman through her modernism and approach to life and art.  Her works consisted of her abstractions; distinctive enlargements of flowers, leaves, and shells; landscapes of Lake George and New Mexico as well as New York cityscapes; and memorable skeletal compositions derived from the desert's detritus.

O'Keeffe's work had, from her earliest days as a professional artist, elicited comments like "revelation."  When Alfred Stieglitz first encountered her abstract drawings in 1916, he responded immediately to their power.  As recalled by one witness to the moment, "They were a revelation to him. He had long hoped that someday drawings with such feeling and candor would be put on paper by a woman. In O'Keeffe's work he saw a new expression of things felt, a new beauty."  Stieglitz and O'Keeffe would cement their bond in marriage in December 1924.  Prominent critics were similarly struck by O'Keeffe's works when they were shown at Stieglitz's gallery.  William Fisher, for instance, praised the "mystic and musical drawings," which he likened to religious "revelations" in their "cosmic grandeur."

O'Keeffe first visited Taos, New Mexico in 1919 and from that point onward her art became more visionary, flavored with symbolism.  She returned to New Mexico each summer, moving there permanently in 1946.  She spent the rest of her life communicating the essence of the West on simplified, puritan, austere canvases.  Her almost exclusively, unsigned canvases hold a profound beauty to all who experience them.

Georgia O'Keeffe's body of work represents all things "American" and the art world has positively responded to her efforts.  Dozens of retrospective exhibitions have been held, as well as the 1966 show at Fort Worth's Amon Carter Museum and the exhibition in 1970 at the Whitney Gallery of American Art in New York.  In 1995 the private Georgia O'Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico was conceived. The artist was also awarded several honorary doctorate degrees during the later years of her life.  Her works are held by virtually every major museum in the United States and are also represented in many private collections.

Georgia O'Keeffe: Selected Paintings and Works on Paper - Hirschel & Adler Galleries, New York & Gerald Peters Galleries, Santa Fe, 1986 - illustrated in color, #3
The Art and Life of Georgia O'Keeffe by Jan Garden Castro (Crown Publishers,1985), illustrated in color, page 160.

The Anderson Galleries, New York, 1924, Alfred Steigliz Presents Fifty-One Recent Pictures: Oils, Watercolors, Pastels, Drawings, by Georgia O'Keeffe, American
The Anderson Galleries Building, The Intimate Gallery (Room 303), New York, 1929, Georgia O'Keeffe Paintings, 1928, (n.p.) (n.n.)
Hirschl & Adler Galleries, New York, 1986, Georgia O'Keeffe: Selected Paintings and Works on Paper, (n.p.) no. 3 illus. in color

Biography from Nedra Matteucci Galleries
GEORGIA O'KEEFFE (1887 - 1986)

Georgia O'Keeffe was born in 1887 near Sun Prairie, Wisconsin.  Her professional training began in 1905 with study at the Art Institute of Chicago and continued at the Art Students League in New York in 1907 where she studied with William Merritt Chase.

Between 1908 and 1912, O'Keeffe worked in commercial art.  In the autumn of 1912, she became the supervisor of art in the public schools in Amarillo, Texas.  After two years, with summers spent teaching at the University of Virginia, O'Keeffe left to study with Arthur Wesley Dow at the Teachers' College of Columbia University.

The year 1915 changed her life.  She had taken a new teaching position at Columbia College in South Carolina, and her artistic style was becoming uniquely her own. She sent several charcoal drawings to her friend Anna Pollitzer in New York.  Anna promptly took them to Alfred Stieglitz, even though O'Keeffe had told her not to show them to anyone. Stieglitz was impressed and decided to exhibit them, declaring, "Finally, a woman on paper!"

O'Keeffe's first one-person show was held in May 1917 at Stieglitz's 291 Gallery. O'Keeffe held two major exhibitions at Anderson Galleries in 1923 and 1924.  The first of yearly exhibitions at Stieglitz's Intimate Gallery were held in 1926, the year of her first paintings of New York City.  Summers in the 1920's were spent painting at Lake George until 1929, when O'Keeffe made her first summer trip to New Mexico. Stieglitz continued to exhibit her work at An American Place in New York until his death in 1946.  Other exhibits were held during these years including retrospectives at the Art Institute of Chicago (1943) and the Museum of Modern Art (1946).

By the 1950's, O'Keeffe's permanent home was Abiquiu, New Mexico, although travel to many parts of the world occupied much of her time.   She was intrigued with what she has called the Southwest's "wonderful emptiness." Indeed the Northern New Mexican landscape has become synonymous with O'Keeffe and her work.  In 1997 the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum opened in Santa Fe, the only museum in the country devoted solely to the work of a woman.

Georgia O'Keeffe was honored in her lifetime with many recognitions of her art and achievements. Awards include election to the American Academy of Arts and Letters (1963), Brandeis University Creative Arts Award (1963), election to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1966), National Institute of Arts, Letters Gold Medal for Painting (1966) and the Presidential Medal of Freedom (1977).

Biography from Altermann Galleries and Auctioneers, IV
Georgia O'Keeffe was born on a farm in Sun Prairie Wisconsin and is one of the most well known modernist Western artists.  She grew up in Virginia, and began her art education at the Art Institute of Chicago, studying with Vanderpoel from 1904 to 1905. She then studied at the Art Students League in New York.

The young artist began working in 1909 as an illustrator for advertising companies, then became supervisor of art in the Amarillo, Texas, public school system from 1912 to 1914.  During that time, from 1913 to 1916, O'Keeffe was also an instructor in art at the University of Virginia, and for two years after that, head of the art department of West Texas State Normal College.

During that time, O'Keeffe had become the student of Arthur Wesley Dow, who led her to forms derived from nature and to subtle color contrasts.  It was her future husband, and dealer, Stieglitz, who first presented her work in a 1916 exhibition.  Her paintings were said to embody the feminine principle, and she herself became the symbol of the new uninhibited woman.  When Stieglitz first saw the sketches of the young art teacher in 1916, he said "Finally, a woman on paper."

When O'Keeffe visited Taos, New Mexico, in 1919, her art became more mystical and visionary, flavored with symbolism.  She returned to New Mexico each summer, moving there permanently in 1946.

She then spent the rest of her life communicating the essence of the West on simplified, puritan, austere canvases.  "When she first saw bones on the arid earth of New Mexico, she thought of them as a kind of wildflower which had been purified by the wind and rain so that they evoked no association of death but rather a feeling of pristine splendor." Van Deren Coke, Taos and Santa Fe.

Reference: Samuels' Encyclopedia of Artists of the American West, by Peggy and Harold Samuels

Biography from The Caldwell Gallery
Georgia O'Keefe studied at the Art Institute of Chicago (1905-06), Art Students League (1907-08) and at Columbia University (1914-16) as well as being awarded many honorable degrees from various universities.

She was one of the most important American Modernists, known best for her Southwestern landscapes of desert objects and flowers.  In 1918, O'Keefe resigned from her position at West Texas College in Canyon, Texas to pursue painting in New York City after her work had been shown to Alfred Stieglitz.

Stieglitz organized O'Keefe's first exhibit at his gallery, An American Place, and continued to support and exhibit her work until his death.  They were married in 1924 and O'Keefe painted her famous Manhattan skyscrapers the year after.

In 1929 she began to visit New Mexico in the summers and exhibited the first of her Southwestern works in 1930.  She found inspiration for her animal pelvic bone paintings here in 1943 and eventually moved to New Mexico by 1949.  The flowers that O'Keefe painted were usually seen from a frontal view with petals like human flesh.  Her Southwestern paintings combine lush color with stark austerity and reveal many Mexican-American religious symbols.  Bleached animal bones are arranged in canyon settings with crosses.  Her work has had a lasting impression on Modernism with its amazing color harmony and flat patterning style.

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© 2001 The Georgia O'Keeffe Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

About  Georgia O'Keeffe

Born:  1887 - Sun Prairie, Wisconsin
Died:   1986 - Santa Fe, New Mexico
Known for:  Abstract botanical and landscape structure painting

Essays referring to
Georgia O'Keeffe

Taos pre-1940
Women Artists