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 art...to 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 understanding...to 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.”
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Rest cursor on thumbnails to see composition dates (1916 to 1970's)