I’ve just been watching the end of a biopic on Georgia O’Keeffe. There has recently been a trend for photographs/paintings of enlarged flowers in interior design but after doing some research Georgia O’Keeffe was doing it in the 1920’s. When you think about it nothing is new in art.
Georgia Totto O’Keeffe was born in 1887 in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin USA. After studying at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago 1905-1906 and in 1907 attending the Art Students League in New York. She didn’t pursue a career as an artist though as she felt she could never distinguish herself as an artist in the traditional sense but became a commercial artist. She started to paint again in 1912 after attending a summer school at the University of Virginia.
In 1916 some of her charcoal drawings were exhibited at the ‘291’ gallery owned by Alfred Stieglitz who would later become her husband. Her first sold exhibition was in April 1917 again at ‘291’ but this time it included oil paintings and watercolours that she had completed in Texas.
In the mid 1920’s she started to paint her now famous large scale flower paintings, the first of which Petunia, No. 2 was exhibited in 1925. Her works commanded large sums of money for the times, Stieglitz had in 1928 masterminded the sale of a series of six Calla Lily painting for $25,000 and although the sale did not go through the promotion surrounding the possible sale gave her extensive media attention.
She suffered a nervous breakdown in 1932 when she was unable to finish a mural for Radio City Music Hall.
Her work changed direction when in 1929 she started to spend part of the year in New Mexico and used the rocks and bones she found in the desert as part of the landscape paintings she did here. In 1940 she bought a house on Ghost Ranch and in 1943 she said “Such a beautiful, untouched lonely feeling place, such a fine part of what I call the ‘Faraway’. It is a place I have painted before . . . even now I must do it again.”
Georgia O’Keeffe was still painting well in to her 80’s but in 1972 she was diagnosed with macular degeneration, which meant she lost her central vision leaving her only with peripheral vision. Losing your sight for anyone is hard but especially for an artist but although she stopped painting in oils she carried on working with pencils and charcoal until 1984.
She died on 8th March 1986 aged 98 in Santa Fe and as she wished her ashes were scattered at the top of Pedernal Mountain.
Just found these YouTube videos of Georgia O’Keeffe talking in 1977 about her work. We are so lucky to be able to search the internet and find these snippets from years past aren’t we.