Female Artist of the Month: Georgia O’Keeffe

Happy Monday everyone! Can you believe that this Wednesday is Valentine’s Day? Uh goodbye diet me, hello discount chocolate me!

I really do feel like this year is already flying by. I am so used to January and February dragging on, but this year has just started out so wonderfully well and it is going to keep getting better!  I have been doing an excellent job of keep my new year’s motto of “positive vibes” has been at the forefront of everything I do. Which is why this month’s FAM (Female Artist of the Month) is Georgia O’Keeffe! She is best known for her paintings of enlarged flowers, New York skyscrapers, and New Mexico landscapes. O’Keeffe has been recognized as the “Mother of American modernism”.

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Photo: Brooklyn Museum

Early Life

In 1905, O’Keeffe began her formal art training at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (which has some of her most famous paintings!) and then the Art Students League of New York. However, she felt constrained by her lessons that focused on copying what was in nature.

In 1908, unable to fund further education, she worked for two years as a commercial illustrator (this was before she did the famous Dole commission), and then spent seven years between 1911 and 1918 teaching in Virginia, Texas, and South Carolina. During that time, she studied art during the summers between 1912 and 1914 and

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Photo: Arthur Wesley Dow, Credit: Historic Ipswich

was introduced to the principles and philosophies of Arthur Wesley Dow, who created works of art based upon personal style, design, and interpretation of subjects, rather than trying to copy them.

This caused a major change in the way she felt about and approached art, as seen in the beginning stages of her watercolours from her studies at the University of Virginia and more dramatically in the charcoal drawings that she produced in 1915 that led to total abstraction. Alfred Stieglitz, an art dealer and photographer, held an exhibit of her works in 1916.

Skyscrapers and Flowers

O’Keeffe moved to New York in 1918 at Stieglitz’s request and began working seriously as an artist. They developed a professional relationship—he promoted and exhibited her work—and a personal relationship that led to their marriage in 1924. She created many forms of abstract art, including close-ups of flowers, such as the Red Canna paintings, that many found to represent women’s genitalia, although O’Keeffe consistently denied that intention. The reputation of the portrayal of women’s sexuality was also fuelled by the sensuous photographs that Stieglitz had taken and exhibited of O’Keeffe.

New York, Night 1929

New York, Night 1929

The Big Move

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Photo: O’Keeffe in 1960, Credit: The Telegraph

O’Keeffe and Stieglitz lived together in New York until 1929, when O’Keeffe began spending part of the year in the Southwest, which served as inspiration for her paintings of New Mexico landscapes and images of animal skulls, such as Cow’s Skull: Red, White, and Blue and Ram’s Head White Hollyhock and Little Hills. After Stieglitz’s death, she moved permanently in New Mexico, until the last years of her life when she lived in Santa Fe.

Men put me down as the best woman painter…

…I think I’m one of the best painters.

In 2014, O’Keeffe’s 1932 painting Jimson Weed sold for $44,405,000, more than three times the previous world auction record for any female artist (This was one of the key points in my capstone projects in uni). In 2016, the Tate Modern in London, UK had the biggest exhibition of her work ever with over 100 works!

My Love of O’Keeffe

Georgia O’Keeffe has had a tremendous influence on my work. During my first year at university, her freedom and abstraction embodied all I wanted to be. Her work was something I could only dream of create something as worthy.

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Light Iris, 1924

Her use of pastels was something I had never really dabbled in because I didn’t think that those colours reflected me. It wasn’t until I was introduced to her beautiful New York skyscrapers that I really thought I could do both if she could do both.

To me, Georgia O’Keeffes work transcends time. Her subject matter captures the viewer. Her graceful brush strokes and deep understanding is clearly evident.

PIN ME!

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** Image featured in main image is Lake George, 1922 **

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