Georgia O Keeffe

“Art should not be separate from life”

by Sebastian Marc
Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864–1946). Georgia O’Keeffe, Prospect Mountain, Lake George, 1927. Gelatin silver print, 4? x 3? in. (11.8 x 9.3 cm). National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Alfred Stieglitz Collection, 1980.70.223. © Board of Trustees, National Gallery of Art, Washington
“National Gallery of Art, Washington, Alfred Stieglitz Collection”

Georgia O Keefe is without a doubt one of the most important American artists of the 20th century and female artists of all time. O Keeffe and her outstanding position on American Art are to be attributed not only to her work but to her striking personality. Few people could command such a legendary and autonomous lifestyle in the desolate desserts of New Mexico like O´Keeffe. Not only did her career span over half a century. One of seven children O´Keeffe was raised in a farm in the Mid West. Her bond with the environment has been consistent throughout her life. Her move to New York and her studies at the Art Students League in 1907 exposed O´Keeffe to the wonders and perils of being a female artist in the 20th century art world. There she would get her first glimpse of the works of Braque and Picasso and meet one of the most important figures in her life , and husband, Alfred Stieglitz. O, Keefe quickly grew out of her studies and the conventional approach to art and ventured to Chicago for a career in commercial art , designing logos and advertisements.  In 1912 O´Keeffe enrolled herself into the university of Virginia where she would be inspired by the teachings of Arthur W. Davos. His Eastern ideals of painting inspired O´Keeffe to produce work that personified unique personal experiences into abstract forms.

“I said to myself, I have things in my head that are not like what anyone has taught me – shapes 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- to accept as true my own thinking. I was alone and singularly free, working into my own, unknown- no one to satisfy but myself.”

Georgia O´kEEFFE

Georgia O’Keeffe (American, 1887–1986). Pool in the Woods, Lake George, 1922. Pastel on paper, 17 x 27½ in. (43.3 x 69.9 cm). Reynolda House Museum of American Art, Winston-Salem, N.C.; Gift of Barbara B. Millhouse in memory of E. Carter, Nancy Susan Reynolds, and Winifred Babcock, 1984.2.9. Courtesy of Reynolda House Museum of American Art, affiliated with Wake Forest University. © Georgia O’Keeffe Museum/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

O´Keefe´s new work won praise in New York and especially charmed Alfred Stieglitz.  She would continue to exhibit her work at Stieglitz gallery 291. He branded  O´Keefe´s work as  “the purist, finest sincerest things that have entered the 291 in a long while”.   O´Keefe´s return to New York, from Texas, enabled a great bond and affection to develop between the two.  Stieglitz support enabled O´Keefe to devote herself exclusively to painting. The next decades would see O´Keeffe continue to develop her relationship with the environment around her. O´Keeffe would continue to express herself in her own abstract form.  Painting the skyscrapers of Madison avenue to the barren landscapes of New Mexico. Without a doubt O´Keeffe´s legacy on American 20th century art is unquantifiable as her iconic persona and artistic style not only broke the mold but it enabled other female artists to follow in her footsteps.

Georgia O’Keeffe (American, 1887-1986). Manhattan, 1932. Oil on canvas, 84? x 48¼ in. (214.3 x 122.6 cm). Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.; Gift of The Georgia O’Keeffe Foundation, 1995.3.1. (Photo: Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C./Art Resource, NY)

“A flower is relatively small. Everyone has many associations with a flower-the idea of flowers. 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..”

Georgia O´Keeffe

Georgia O’Keeffe (American, 1887–1986). Ram’s Head, White Hollyhock—Hills (Ram’s Head and White Hollyhock, New Mexico), 1935. Oil on canvas, 30 x 36 in. (76.2 x 91.4 cm). Brooklyn Museum; Bequest of Edith and Milton Lowenthal, 1992.11.28. (Photo: Brooklyn Museum)

The Brooklyn Museum latest exhibition Georgia O´Keeffe  Living Modern makes a personal homage to O´Keeffe and her life as an artist and persona. The exhibition expands what is commonly known about O Keeffe by articulately analysing her life on the camera and behind it. The exhibition sheds light on her independent lifestyle in the New Mexico dessert and her unique style featuring a collection of her garments and rare photographs by her husband Alfred Stieglitz.  The exhibition also is a testament to O´Keeffe´s first ever gallery exhibition which was also hosted at the Brooklyn museum in 1927. This exhibition is a must for fans of O´Keeffe. Its attention to detail to the women behind the canvas and her unique approach to life is a truly inspirational experience that will challenge people´s interpretations of O´Keeffe and 20th Century American art.


Georgia O’Keeffe (American, 1887–1986). Patio with Cloud, 1956. Oil on canvas, 36 x 30 in. (91.4 x 76.2 cm). Milwaukee Art Museum; Gift of Mrs. Edward R. Wehr, M1957.10. © Georgia O’Keeffe Museum/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. (Photo: P. Richard Eells)


Georgia O Keeffe Modern Living

March 3rd – July 23rd 2017

The Brooklyn Museum New York City


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