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Georgia O'Keeffe

Georgia O'Keeffe

(1887 - 1986)
Born: Sun Prairie, Wisconsin
Style: Modernism
Famous Works:
  • Red Canna (1923)
  • From the Lake (1924)
  • Ram's Head, White Hollyhock-Hills (1935)
Georgia O'Keeffe was born on a Wisconsin dairy farm in 1887, and expressed interest in art at the age of ten. The young artist took watercolor lessons, and after finishing high school, enrolled at the Art Institute of Chicago. After approximately one year, O'Keeffe left the Art Institute of Chicago for New York City where she studied under William Merritt Chase at the Art Students League. Despite winning a prize for still-life during her time at the league, O'Keeffe had a sense that her training had not prepared her for a career in art. Georgia O'Keeffe's formal training to that point had been based on the Platonic theory of Mimesis, which dictates that art be a direct imitation of life. O'Keeffe moved back to Chicago and did not paint again for four years, until she was emboldened by the theories of Arthur Wesley Dow while attending summer school at the University of Virginia. Dow presented an alternative to the mimetic tradition, rejecting that the artist must duplicate nature and suggesting that composition was paramount. This simple concept was considered radical by many, but formed a foundation on which O'Keeffe would build one of the most influential careers of any female artist in the 20th century. Invigorated, O'Keeffe completed a number of charcoal abstractions of nature, which eventually fell into the hands of Alfred Stieglitz. Stieglitz's 291 gallery had been instrumental in exposing the New York City art scene to photographic and avant-garde art, and this is where O’Keeffe’s charcoal abstractions were first exhibited in 1916. One year later, 291 was the site of O'Keeffe's first solo exhibition. O'Keeffe and the much older Stieglitz had fallen in love, and she moved to New York City in 1918 to be with him. In New York, O'Keefe made two significant changes to her artistic method, adopting oil paint as her primary medium, and shifting from abstraction to representation. The artist completed several paintings with New York city as her subject, and in the mid 1920s she painted her first large-scale flower, surely the subject for which she is best known. O'Keeffe had gained considerable popularity already, and continued to seek out new inspiration for her work. Georgia O'Keeffe traveled to New Mexico in 1929, a trip that would expose her to the landscapes, flowers, skies, and bones that became her beloved subjects. O'Keeffe began traveling to New Mexico regularly, eventually moving there permanently. From her house on Ghost Ranch and the surrounding country, O'Keeffe painted until 1972, amassing an oeuvre that places her at the pinnacle of 20th century American artists. Georgia O'Keeffe died in Santa Fe, New Mexico, in 1986, at the age of 98.
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