(PCM) Famous modern artist Georgia O’Keeffe was born on November 15, 1887 and passed away on March 6, 1986. O’Keeffe is listed among some of the most famous artist in the world and is often referred to as the “Mother of American modernism” in the art realm.
She is best-known for her paintings of enlarged flowers, but she also painted several abstract city scene during her time living in New York and various desert landscapes during the later years in her life when she resided in New Mexico. In fact, so many of O’Keeffe’s most famous paintings feature scenes from the New Mexican desert that many people believed that she was actually a native to that area of the country. Surprisingly, O’Keeffe grew up on a very prominent dairy farm in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin.
O’Keeffe studied at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago from 1905 to 1906. In 1907, she attended the Art Students League in New York City, where she studied under William Merritt Chase. In 1908, she won the League’s William Merritt Chase still-life prize for her oil painting Dead Rabbit with Copper Pot. Her prize was a scholarship to attend the League’s outdoor summer school in Lake George, New York. While in the city in 1908, O’Keeffe attended an exhibition of Rodin’s watercolors at the gallery 291, owned by her future husband, photographer Alfred Stieglitz.
Stieglitz started photographing O’Keeffe when she visited him in New York to see her 1917 exhibition. By 1937, when he retired from photography, he had made more than 350 portraits of her. Most of the more erotic photographs were made in the 1910s and early 1920s. In February 1921, forty-five of Stieglitz’s photographs, including many of O’Keeffe, some of which depicted her in the nude, were exhibited in a retrospective exhibition at the Anderson Galleries that created a public sensation.
By the mid-1920s, O’Keeffe began making large-scale paintings of natural forms at close range, as if seen through a magnifying lens. In 1924 she painted her first large-scale flower painting Petunia, No. 2, which was first exhibited in 1925. She was also married to Stieglitz in 1924. After her husbands death O’Keeffe moved to New Mexico and was inspired by the landscape to create numerous well-known paintings up until the time of her passing.
In 1972, O’Keeffe’s eyesight was compromised by macular degeneration, leading to the loss of central vision and leaving her with only peripheral vision. She stopped oil painting without assistance in 1972, but continued working in pencil and charcoal until 1984. In 1976, she wrote a book about her art and allowed a film to be made about her in 1977.After her death in 1986, in accordance with her wishes, her body was cremated and her ashes were scattered to the wind at the top of Pedernal Mountain, over her beloved “faraway”.
In celebration of what would have been O’Keeffe’s 128th birthday here are five facts that you may not know about her life
- She often painted from the backseat of her beloved Model-A Ford. She would remove the driver’s seat. Then she would unbolt the passenger car, turn it around to face the back seat. Then she would lay the canvas on the back seat as an easel and paint.
- She would completely immerse herself in nature to become one with her subject, no matter the weather or environmental hazards. While in New Mexico O’Keeffe spent summers and falls at her Ghost Ranch, putting up with the region’s hottest, most stifling days in order to capture its most vivid colors. She would rig up tents from tarps, contend with unrelenting downpours, and paint with gloves on when it got too cold. She went camping well into her 70s.
- Talk about a lengthy love story! O’Keeffe and her husband Alfred Stiegliz are said to have written 25,000 pages of love letter to one another. The pair began writing to each other in 1916, often (sometimes two or three times a day) and at length (as many as 40 pages at a time). These preserved writings chart the progression of their romance—from flirtation to affair to their marriage in 1924—and even document their marital struggles.
- O’Keeffe actually quit painting on three different occasions. The first time was to help her family with the struggle of financial burdens, the second time was due to a nervous breakdown and the third was later in life when her eyesight was failing leaving her unable to paint.
- After she was unable to paint, O’Keeffe still kept her artistic spirit alive and well and turned to sculpting.