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O'Keefe, Georgia

Georgia O'Keeffe


Renowned for her magnificent use of color and form in her landscapes, flower studies and abstract paintings, Georgia O'Keeffe is regarded among the most significant and provocative artists of the 20th century and a key figure in the modernist movement of American Fine Art.


She decided to become an artist at the age of 12. From 1905 to 1906, she attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and in 1907, she went to New York to study oil, pastel and watercolor painting at the Art Students League. In 1908, she saw the first American exhibitions of the work of Auguste Rodin and Henri Matisse at the Little Galleries of the Photo-Secession, known as 291, run by Alfred Stieglitz.


Between 1908 and 1910, O'Keeffe worked as a freelance commercial artist drawing lace and embroidery advertisements in Chicago. During the summer of 1912, she attended a drawing class run by Alon Bement (1876-1954) at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. Through him she became interested in the anti-academic system of art education, and for the next six years, O'Keeffe taught it at schools and colleges in Virginia, South Carolina and Texas. Her continuing personal studies led her to her fascination with abstract art. In 1915, she produced a breakthrough series of large charcoal abstractions, with her inspiration being the organic motifs of the Art Nouveau, originating from, what she said were “things in my head.” Stieglitz saw the series in January 1916. Always in search of the new and determined to recognize and foster an indigenous American art, he exhibited them.


O'Keeffe moved to New York in 1918 with the promise of Stieglitz's financial support. They married in 1924 and he exhibited her work almost yearly in New York until his death in 1946. O'Keeffe became interested in the aesthetics of photography as a direct result of posing so often for her husband's camera. She started to isolate certain elements from the photographic process to serve a new purpose of objectivity; utilizing cropped images, isolated detail, telephoto, magnified close-up and the lens malfunctions common to old cameras such as convergence, halation and flare to gain new perspectives on her subjects from angles and vantage-points previously unattainable.


By 1925, O'Keeffe had developed a style from a unique fusion of Symbolism, abstraction and photography. From 1929, she spent her summers painting in New Mexico, reinvigorating her art with the colors, forms and themes of the Southwest. It was Yellow & Pink I is the product of O'Keeffe's interpretation of the landscapes that she encountered from airplanes. As in her flower paintings, O'Keeffe's unusual vantage point is rendered in an elevated perspective transporting the viewer high above the desert river. She reduces the landscape to a pattern of winding shapes with a complete loss of detail, giving her subject a mystical and spiritual meaning that is the essence of her works. In 1949. O'Keeffe moved permanently to Abiquiu, New Mexico, formerly a Native American village, near Santa Fe. During her 98 years, she received many honors and awards, including the American Medal of Freedom and the National Medal of Arts.


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