Georgia O'Keeffe
(1887 - 1986) b. America

A Close Look at Flowers

Color and shape

Red Canna, c. 1923 -

I found
I could say things with
color and shapes that I couldn't say
in any other way - things that
I had no words for.


The beginning

Stieglitz, Alfred - Georgia O'Keeffe – 1920

Born on November 15, 1887, second of seven children, and grew up on a farm in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin.

Received art lessons at home and earned respect and support from her teachers

1905, O'Keeffe had determined to make her way as an artist.


Imitative realism

Untitled (Dead Rabbit with Copper Pot) - 1908 -

Studied at the Art Institute of Chicago (1905 - 1906) and at the Art Students League, New York (1907 - 1908), quick to master the principles of imitative realism.

In 1908, award for Untitled (Dead Rabbit with Copper Pot).

Shortly thereafter, quit making art, saying later that she had known then that she could never achieve distinction working within this tradition.


Jack-in-the-Pulpit No. IV, 1930

I have things in my head that are not like what anyone has taught me...shapes and ideas so near to natural to my way of being and thinking that it hasn't occurred to me to put them down...

Dow's goal for art

Jack-in-the-Pulpit No. VI, 1930

Renewed interest in art four years later by the ideas of influential arts educator Arthur Wesley Dow who believed that rather than copying nature, the goal of art was the expression of the artist's personal ideas and feelings and that such subject matter was best realized by using the elements of the composition; harmonious arrangements of line, mass, color, and notan (the Japanese system of lights and darks).


Her own feelings

No. 13 Special, 1916/1917, Charcoal on paper

By 1915, she put Dow's theories to the test. In an attempt to discover a personal language through which she could express her own feelings and ideas, she began a series of abstract charcoal drawings that are now recognized as being among the most innovative in all of American art of the period.


Close-up flowers

Black Iris III, 1936

As early as the mid-1920s, when O'Keeffe first began painting large-scale depictions of flowers as if seen close up, which are among her best-known pictures, she had become recognized as one of America's most important and successful artists.


"Nobody sees a flower,
really -- it is so small --
we haven't time, and
to see takes time,
like to
have a friend takes time."

Alfred Stieglitz

Jack-in-the-Pulpit No. III, 1930

Stieglitz began corresponding with O'Keeffe, who returned to New York that spring to attend classes at Teachers College, and he exhibited 10 of her charcoal abstractions in May at his famous avant-garde gallery, 291.

In the spring of 1918 he offered O'Keeffe financial support to paint for a year in New York, which she accepted.


Painting nature

Yellow Calla, 1926

Those who wrote of "sex" in her flower paintings had undoubtedly not studied the flowers to know how true was her expression of them. Georgia did not care what was said. It was impossible for her not to want to paint corollas, calyxes, petals, stems - the essential parts of the flower with all their depth of color and in their wondrous forms. She was painting nature, as it seemed to her, exciting and wonderfully alive. Anita Pollitzer, from "A Woman On Paper: Georgia O'Keeffe"

New Mexican influence

Iris -

Shortly after her arrival in June, she and Stieglitz, who were married in 1924, fell in love and subsequently lived and worked together in New York (winter and spring) and at the Stieglitz family estate at Lake George, New York (summer and fall) until 1929, when O'Keeffe spent the first of many summers painting in New Mexico.


Ghost Ranch

Chama River, Ghost Ranch, 1937 -

Three years after Stieglitz's death, O'Keeffe moved from New York to her beloved New Mexico, Ghost Ranch house, whose stunning vistas and stark landscape configurations had inspired her work since 1929.

As seen in the paintings done by O'Keeffe rock palaces of red, orange pink, gold, and variations of browns surround this area. The colors are layered in wide bands like the layers of an exquisite dessert. Georgia loved the mountain Pedernal. She was fond of proclaiming that if she painted it often enough, G_d would give it to her.

Some of her other favorite subjects to paint were the hills across from the ranch headquarters and Kitchen Mesa at the upper end of the valley.

Ghost Ranch was her respite and gave her the freedom and opportunity to paint her surroundings with the joy it gave her.

The Cliff Chimneys, 1938 -


Created until 96

White Flora -

O'Keeffe continued to work in oil until the mid -- 1970s, when failing eyesight forced her to abandon painting. Although she continued working in pencil and watercolor until 1982, she also produced objects in clay until her health failed in 1984.

She died at the age of 99 reclusive to the end. She was quoted as saying “I find people very difficult”. -


Poppy, 1927

Everyone has many associations with a flower. You put out your hand to touch it, or lean forward to smell it, or maybe touch it with your lips almost without thinking, or give it to someone to please them. But one rarely takes the time to really see a flower. I have painted what each flower is to me and I have painted it big enough so that others would see what I see. Georgia, catalog statement, 1926

O'Keeffe's O'Keeffes: The Artist's Collection

The Milwaukee Art Museum presented O'Keeffe's O'Keeffes: The Artist's Collection, the first exhibition to showcase the artist's works from her own collection and to explore how her management of this collection shaped her public image. An intimate portrait of Georgia O'Keeffe, the exhibition features many of the works she treasured for their beauty and significance, including works which she kept hidden from public view.

Worth checking out: Drawing Prompts - Each artist link provides an opening representative image suitable for drawing by students. Additional images and information are also provided to help students explore the vast posibilities of artistic expression.

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