Who Is Georgia O’Keeffe?

Georgia was born in 1887 in Wisconsin into a family with six siblings.  Her mother was a great encouragement, and Georgia was able to take lessons in watercolour from an artist, Sara Mann.

In her family, education was important, and she was able to study at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago from 1905 to 1906.  In 1907 Georgia moved to New York City and studied at the Art Students League, where she excelled.

The Early Years

She enjoyed visiting Gallery 291 owned by Alfred Stieglitz, a photographer, and here she was exposed to artists like Rodin and Matisse.  Between 1908 and 1912 she took a break from her art career and worked as a commercial artist.

In 1912 she attended a class at University of Virginia where she was exposed to a new teaching style from Arthur Dow.  Georgia began experimenting with self-exploration through her art, and she took things in nature such as clouds and waves and she used charcoal to draw a series of these in a simplified form using shapes and lines.

Her Influences

Alfred exhibited her charcoal drawings and they began a professional relationship, which later developed into a personal one, and they married in 1924.  Georgia was introduced to Alfred’s circle of friends and these included Marsden Hartley, John Marin and Paul Strand.

She was influenced by Paul Strand and Charles Sheeler and from there she started doing large scale painting looking at natural forms close up and at this time she also changed from painting with water colours to oil paints.  She is well known for her paintings of flowers and she then also started painting New York skyscrapers and other forms of architecture. By 1920 her art was well known, and she was recognised as an important artist.

New Mexico Landscapes

In 1929 she turned her attention to landscapes in New Mexico, and became fascinated by the landscapes and stretches of barren land.

She continued to visit up until 1949 to paint these landscapes and her paintings captured the desert, vast skies and bones that she found in the desert and later she bought two properties here.

Her Accolades

Her popularity as an important artist continued to grow, and in 1943 she received a retrospective from the Art Institute of Chicago and in 1946 she received a retrospective from the Museum of Modern Art for work by a woman.

After her husband’s death she moved to New Mexico and painted a series of architectural forms and did much travelling, where she gained inspiration for her work.  Her accolades included membership into the American Academy of Arts, Medal of Freedom and National Medal of Arts.

During the 1950s and 1960s her popularity seemed to be diminishing unlike the online slots Canada offers that remain perennially popular, but in 1970 a retrospective was held by the Whitney Museum of American Art and boosted her career and her art received attention from a new era of women, the feminists.

Even though her eyesight was failing she continued to paint and her last paintings were simple, abstract lines and shapes much the same as her first work using charcoal. She died in 1986.