Georgia O'Keeffe (11/15/1887–3/6/1986) was an American artist. Born near Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, O'Keeffe first came to the attention of the New York art community in 1916, several decades before women had gained access to art training in America’s colleges and universities, and before any of its women artists were well known or highly celebrated.
O’Keeffe grew up with six siblings on a Wisconsin dairy farm and received art lessons at home as a child. Throughout her school years, teachers recognized and cultivated her ability to draw and paint. Upon graduation from high school, O’Keeffe determined to become a professional artist.
She first attended the Art Institute of Chicago (1905–06); then she went to New York City to study at the Art Students League.
O'Keeffe is best known for extreme close-up images of abstracted natural forms, such as flowers, animal bones, clouds, and landscapes. From 1929 she spent most of her summers painting in New Mexico, moving there permanently in 1949. In 1971, she learned to be a hand-potter.
As the protege of Stieglitz, one of the early proponents of modern art in New York (and later his wife), O'Keeffe posed in front of her abstract artwork as a manifestation of the sexually liberated woman.
Critic Clement Greenberg, a nonfan, was appalled when MoMA honored O’Keeffe with a retrospective in 1946—one of its first solo shows for a woman; her work was “little more than tinted photography.” Threatened male artists (sex was their territory!) Edward Hopper and John Sloan were “furious” that she’d been elected to the National Institute of Arts and Letters in 1949 and “tried to intervene.”
O'Keeffe's debut at 291 was a turning point in her life. It marked the beginning of her association with Alfred Stieglitz, the genius who would become her mentor and eventually her husband. Relying on his and her own confidence in her artistic gifts, she would go on to build a reputation as one of America's greatest painters.
Georgia O’Keeffe never seemed to mind having wrinkles. When we think of her, we are most likely to think of her later years, when she owned a ranch in Abiquiu, N.M., and roamed the red hills. She lived to be 98, and even after her hair went white, she was not shy about posing for photographs. As if to play up the pantheistic spirit of her art, she presented herself as an American natural, an exemplar of unbuttoned, un-Botoxed authenticity.
Though she painted mostly in oils, O’Keeffe experimented with multiple media throughout her career, including charcoal, watercolors and pastels. But, pastels would be the only medium other than oil that she turned to regularly over the years. Pastels offered her almost pure pigment and the ability to blur or harden edges.
Fryd also persuasively interprets the many paintings of skulls and crosses that O'Keeffe produced in New Mexico as embodying themes of death and rebirth in response to her husband Alfred Stieglitz's long-term affair with Dorothy Norman.
Born on the Wisconsin prairie on November 15th, 1887, Georgia Totto O'Keeffe spent her early childhood with six brothers and sisters in a quiet farm community outside Madison, Wisconsin. Encouraged by her mother to develop confidence and intellectual curiosity, young Georgia and her sisters received painting lessons from a local artist. Soon growing tired of making watercolor copies of book illustrations, Georgia began to experiment on her own in an effort to capture subtle hues of sunlight and shadow with paint, preferring the shapes and colors that existed in nature to copies in books.
Beginning in 1912, though, she began spending time in Texas and she became the head of the art department at the West Texas State Normal College in 1916. O'Keeffe's time in Texas sparked her enduring fascination with the stark and powerful western landscape.