Georgia O'Keeffe

Dark Mesa and Pink Sky

Music to accompany this page:
The Rose, by Bette Midler


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Georgia O'Keeffe was born on November 18, 1887 outside of Sun Prairie, WI. By the time she was in the eight grade, Georgia was announcing that she was going to be an artist when she grew up. She didn't know where she got the idea, but she was determined to follow it.

In 1903 her family relocated to Virginia. Georgia continued to take private art lessons which she had begun in Wisconsin. Education for women was strongly encouraged in her family, and she received full support in her artistic studies. Upon graduation from high school, Georgia attended the Art Institute of Chicago. The following year, she acquired typhoid fever,and after overcoming it, she enrolled at the Art Student League in New York City during 1907.

While at the League, she became discouraged with her work. Another student predicted that Georgia would eventually end up as a painting instructor at a girls' school. When classes started back up in the fall of 1908, Georgia decided not to return, and instead took a position as a commercial artist in Chicago for a year. The year would pass, and Georgia wouldn't paint. It wasn't until she moved back to to join her family in Williamsburg, Virginia that she would again pick up a brush, after enrolling in a nearby college.

Georgia applied for a position as a drawing supervisor in Amarillo, TX in 1912, and was hired for the fall semester. During the summer months, she would travel back to Virginia to teach at the University of Virginia. Georgia stayed in Texas until 1914, when she resigned and moved to New York City to attend Columbia Teachers College. She eventually accepting a teaching position in South Carolina at Columbia College. Her schedule was gave her all of Monday, and every afternoon after three free. She use this to to paint, using her own ideas and drawing things that she felt she must express.

Georgia had been writing to a Anita Pollitzer, a classmate from the Art StudentSpecial No. 13League since the beginning of summer, 1915. They were developing a fast friendship through their letters, sharing everyday life, and everything they were learning about art. In December of that year, Georgia sent some of her drawing to Anita, with explicit instructions that they were for her eyes only. Anita was instantly overwhelmed with the drawings, which included Special No. 13 and took them to Alfred Stieglitz, a leader in the modern art movement in the United States on New Year's Eve. The drawings took his breath away, and he was only able to exclaim, "At last, a woman on paper! Will you tell her this is the purest, most sincere work that has entered 291 in a long while."

A position as head of the art department at West Texas State Normal College was offered, under the condition that Georgia return to Columbia University to take a course in methods of teaching art. Georgia quickly accepted the offer and returned to New York to begin her studies.

Displayed at Georgia's first exhibit at 291In April, Georgia was asked by an acquaintance if she was the O'Keeffe that had a current exhibition at the 291 studio. To her surprise Stieglitz had taken it upon himself to display ten of her drawings without consulting with her first. After confronting Stieglitz about the liberty he had take, she allowed the drawings to remain hanging. Many who had no previous interest in art come again and again to 291 to view Georgia's first exhibition. Georgia, herself did not return to the gallery before leaving to teach at the University of Virginia for the summer.

Train at Night in the DesertGeorgia was an avid painter while in Texas, creating more than fifty watercolors in her free time. Often she would hike down into a nearby canyon and study the rock formations. A second exhibition of Georgia's drawings and sketches was held at 291, in April 1917. This was her first solo show, and included some of the pieces that she had done in Texas, including Train at Night in the Desert. At a time when most artists were doing items and scenes that could easily be recognized, O'Keeffe drew the emotions that she felt, leaning toward the abstract with lines and forms that were rich and full. After the show Stieglitz closed the studio due to financial difficulties, but felt that he had accomplished much, by presenting Georgia O'Keeffe and her art to the world.

O'Keeffe took ill the following winter, and was granted a leave of absence, with the understanding that her position would be held for her until her return. Georgia finally resigned from the her job, and after Blue and Green MusicStieglitz's coercions, she returned to New York in 1918.

Georgia began her series of studies of music in terms of color in 1919, with Blue and Green Music. While she painted, Stieglitz handled the business end, arranging showings and selling her paints. He was very finicky as to what collectors met his standards and were worthy of owning an "O'Keeffe".

While Georgia lived in a large room on the third floor of the home of Alfred's brother, Dr. Leopold Stieglitz. Alfred, who was separated from his wife, utilized the fourth floor of the brownstone as a studio, for showing art, since the closure of 291. With the same Red Canna - 1923enthusiasm that he encouraged her, Stieglitz also sought her opinion in practical matters, depending on her sound judgment.

In the early twenties, O'Keeffe began to paint the flowers that she felt people in the city overlooked. She was noted to state, "Most people in the city rush around so, they have no time to look at a flower. I want them to see it whether they want to or not." She had been doing many smaller paintings of flowers for years, but she now turned to creating them larger than life, with a air of sensuality, such as the Red Canna, from 1923. These flowers are some of her most popular work today.

Georgia O'Keeffe, continued...

Cow Skull with Calico Roses



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