Georgia O'Keeffe

Dark Mesa and Pink Sky

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

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Georgia would often venture out on her own, driving into the desert until a viewNature Forms Gaspecaught her attention, then setting down to paint it. Such was the case with her painting Nature Forms Gaspe, from 1932.

It was on one of these drives, in 1934, that Georgia visited Ghost Ranch for the first time. She stumbled upon it by accident, and when she found they had a cottage available, she rushed back to where she had been living, packed up her belongings, and returned to stay. The ranch was also hostMy Backyardto other well known personalities, including Ansel Adams, D. H. Lawrence and the Lindberghs.

It wasn't until 1940, that Georgia would purchase her own home in New Mexico, in Abiquiu. Her new home consisted of 5 buildings. Georgia fell in love with a mesaLong Pink Hillsin the Jemez range, called the Pedernal, that was visible from her home. She would paint it often, and came to nicknamed it as My Backyard. On the opposite side of the compound was a range of red, pink and yellow mountains that she would pay tribute to in 1942, in her painting Long Pink Hills.

O'Keeffe painted the western landscapes which she described in a simple statement "this is magical country to me." At the same time continued to paint the Big Flowers, that the public had come to love. Her An Orchid 1941 painting, An Orchid, clearly represented how the Director of the Art Institute of Chicago, described her art as "sort of sparkling and alive quiet all at the same time."

During the summer of 1946, Stieglitz suffered a heart attack, and Georgia left New Mexico immediately, to be by his side. Still dressed in the work shoes and red cotton dress she had been wearing while working outdoors that morning, O'Keeffe arrived in time to be with Stieglitz before his passing.

After settling Stieglitz's estate, Georgia returned to New Mexico, which nowPoppies - 1950became her year-round home, and resumed her painting. She began another floral study that included Poppies. Changes in the art world leaned the public in a direction that differed from her own style, and her exhibits lessened. Georgia took advantage of this decreasing demand to travel. Stieglitz never desired to venture beyond New York and Lake George, and O'Keeffe complied with his desires and only took the liberty to visit New Mexico annually. Now was her time to spread her wings and see the world.

During the fifties, Georgia took her first trips outside of the country, first driving through Mexico, and later traveling to Europe. A lifelong dream was fulfilled when she visited Peru, in 1956. It lived up to every expectation she had conceived, and she remarked "There is something dreamlike about it - the days were so wonderful - it was so beautiful one was often left speechless and by night one thought maybe it wasn't real - maybe it was a dream . . . everything in Peru in some way seems to be a peak, the desert is more desert - the mountains are more high . . . and up there in the heights, there was the most beautiful colored earth I have seen."

Georgia's travels did not end there. Trips followed, to Japan, India, Australia, the SouthIt was Blue and GreenPacific, and Africa. She would return from each adventure with happiness, and an eagerness to paint. After returning from a trip in 1960, she reflected on the rivers that she had seen while flying to her destinations. She was fascinated with their colors, and patterns, and upon her return she took to the canvas, painting It was Blue and Green.

By the early 1970's, Georgia's sight began to fail her. Black Rock with Blue III,Black Rock with Blue III would be one of her final paintings before she laid the brush done forever. Shortly afterward, a young potter showed up at her door, looking for work. She hired him to do some odd jobs around her compound, eventually hired him full time at her business manager. He inspired and encouraged Georgia to try her hand at pottery, and she began dabbling in the arts again.

Georgia had always maintained a private persona, shying away from the limelight. This changed in the mid 1970's, when she authored a book about her art, and opened her doors to a film crew, for a documentary at Ghost Ranch.

The highest honor that Georgia had received was when she was elect to the American Academy of Arts and Letter. This is the nation's highest honor society for people in the arts, and consists of a fifty member body. This honor was surpassed when, in 1977, she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor bestowed upon a civilian, and then the National Medal of Arts.

As Georgia approached her late 90's, her health become more frail, and she moved to Sante Fe, from her beloved Ghost Ranch compound. She would die on March 6, 1986. Instructions that she had drawn up were expected, and the next day she was cremated and her ashes were scatted to the wind, from atop "her mountain" over the country she had come to love dearly.

Cow Skull with Calico Roses

Find these books and many more, available at discount prices at:

Portrait of an Artist: A Biography of Georgia O'Keeffe
In Association with
The Art and Life of Georgia O'Keeffe


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