Nature and Abstraction with Georgia O'Keeffe
Biographical notes edited and adapted from Wikipedia
Illustration (TOP): Petunia #2, by Georgia O'Keeffe, 1924
(More images below)

“You carry Mother Earth within you. She is not outside of you. Mother Earth is not
just your environment. And in that insight of inter-being, it is possible to have
real communication with the Earth, which is the highest form of prayer.”
~ Thich Nhat Hanh, Zen Master

GEORGIA TOTTO O'KEEFFE (1887-1986) was born in a farmhouse near Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, the second oldest of seven children and named after her mother's father, George Totto. In 1907, at the age of 20, O'Keeffe enrolled in the Art Student's League in New York City. She first came to the attention of the New York art community in 1916. She is best known for her paintings of enlarged flowers, along with abstract and still life compositions. She also painted skyscrapers in New York and New Mexico landscapes, celebrating two very different areas in the United States, where she lived out her life at various times as an artist. (Photos right: O'Keeffe in 1918 and 1930s).

O'Keeffe & Stieglitz

In 1924, O'Keeffe married the famous photographer and art dealer, Alfred Stieglitz (1864-1946), 23 years her senior, and there are indeed a great many fascinating and much-beloved photographs of her taken by him, including both portraits, illustrated right. Stieglitz was also the first gallery owner to exhibit O'Keeffe.

O'Keeffe & Zen

According to Sharon M. Fitzgerald, O'Keeffe was profoundly influenced by the principles of the arts of Zen, taught to her by Arthur Westley Dow (1857-1922): "she delved deep into the world of Zen Buddhist inspired get to the very essence of things, not an imitation, but the TRUTH...the Zen way of seeing the world."

O'Keeffe is quoted as saying (1976): "It is the inexplicable thing in nature that makes me feel the world is big far beyond my find the feeling of infinity on the horizon line or just over the next hill."

Georgia O'Keeffe & Feminism

Was Georgia O'Keeffe a feminist? The answer is yes, very likely. As quoted by Laurie Lisle, in Portrait of an Artist: A Biography of Georgia O'Keeffe (1980, 1986), O'Keeffe states the following: "Before I put a brush to canvas, I question, Is this mine?... Is it influenced by some idea which I have acquired from some man?... I am trying with all my skill to do a painting that is all of women..."

Mother of American Modernism

Georgia O'Keeffe has also been recognized as the "Mother of American Modernism." Compare her work at this site with the British artist, Mary Fedden (1915-2012), an equally outstanding painter inspired by the early 20th c. modernist movement. And see also abstraction and color in the art of Sonia Delaunay (1885-1979). All three women, O'Keeffe, Fedden and Delauany, lived very long lives, highly creative, truly innovative, and productive throughout. In addition, have a look at the DADA art works of Sophie Taeuber-Arp (1889-1943), a magnificent master of geometric art and design, both by way of painting and sculpture.

O'Keeffe's Union with Her Subject

Comment by Jack Cowart (from “Georgia O’Keeffe: Art and Letters,” 1987, p.5). “No artist has seen and painted like O’Keeffe, whose spirited union with her subject was of a special quality, unparalleled, and irreducible … The best of her works cross over to abstraction … and then loop back to the figurative, engaging the viewer’s full imagination regardless of one’s regional bias.”

Below: Click mages to enlarge in separate windows.
Rest cursor on thumbnails to see composition dates (1916 to 1970's)


Long Lake, Colorado

Purple Leaves

White Shell with Red
Flower Abstraction

White Lacquered

Mariposa Lilies
& Indian Paintbrush

Blue II

Grapes on White Dish —
Dark Rim

Music — Pink and Blue

Two Pink Shells
Lily — White with Black

Autumn Trees - The Maple

From the Old Garden

An Orchid

Spring Tree No. II

Nature Forms,

Petunia and Coleus
Blue Shapes

Calla Lily Turned Away

Apple Family 3

Pink Moon and Blue Lines
Flower of Life II

Open Clam Shell

Winter Cottonwoods

Nude Series IX
Blue and Green Music

Ends of Barns

Corn No. 2

Jimson Weed

Hill, New Mexico

Grey Line with Black,
Blue & Yellow

"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." ~ Georgia O'Keeffe
Photos: O'Keeffe (1918), profile (1932), & later elderly with her Siamese Cat.

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