Georgia O'Keeffe

Georgia O'Keeffe

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Beginning Years:
Georgia Totto O'Keeffe was born November 15, 1887 in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin. Georgia knew from an early age that she was going to be an artist. She and her sister were taught early on to draw by a grammar school teacher and were taught to paint by a local watercolor artist. In 1905, Georgia graduated and continued her art studies at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago where she was the recipient of top honors during her first year. In September of 1907, she resumed her studies at New York's Art Student League, earning a scholarship.

In 1912, Georgia took a teaching job at the Chatham Episcopal Institute. A year later, she applied for and was hired for a teaching position as a drawing supervisor in Texas. But after years of teaching and having almost no time for herself, she decided it was time to paint again. What resulted was a series of charcoal drawings she says were based on images she had in her head. She sent these drawings to her friend in New York, Anita Pollitzer. Against Georgia's wishes, she showed them to Alfred Stieglitz, famous photographer and owner of Gallery 291. His reaction to her drawings was overwhelming stating "At last, a woman on paper!" He decided to show her drawings without her permission. When she found out, she traveled to New York to confront him but he convinced her to keep them on display, gaining a fair amount of buzz.

Her Life with Alfred and After his Death:
In 1923, Stieglitz held a major exhibit of O'Keeffe's work at the Anderson Galleries, the first of many of her showings. The following year, Stieglitz and his wife of 31 years divorced and he quickly asked Georgia to marry him. That same year marked the first time O'Keeffe painted a large, magnified flower which she would become famous for. Stieglitz and O'Keeffe moved to the Shelton Hotel in New York and lived there for the next 12 years where Georgia would be inspired to paint the magnificent views from their 30th floor apartment. But three years later, she felt the need to travel and took a trip to New Mexico which would change her life for good.

Georgia returned to New Mexico every summer until 1946, when her husband died. Only then did she decide to move from New York and permanently reside in New Mexico, calling it "her land". And though her husband had passed away, she continued to exhibit her work.

In 1951, O'Keeffe made her first trip to Mexico where she met the artists Diego Rivera, Frieda Kahlo, and Miguel Covarrubias. She spent the next decade traveling throughout the world and her fame continued through the 1950's and 60's.

Over the years, her eyesight began to deteriorate and painting became difficult. She could no longer paint without some assistance. She hired the help of Juan Hamilton who helped her as much as possible. She did her last unassisted oil painting in 1972. In between this time, she received numerous awards and honors. In 1984 O'Keeffe moved to Santa Fe to live with Juan Hamilton and his family. Her only regret at the continuing loss of her eyesight was "that I will not be able to see this beautiful country anymore... unless the Indians are right and my spirit will walk here after I'm gone."

One year later, she died, March 6, 1986 at the age of 98. Her body was cremated and Hamilton scattered her ashes over her beloved 'faraway'.


Biographies:

On these pages, you will find information that sheds light on the life of the great American artist Georgia O'Keeffe. Like any public figure, some things are common knowledge while other information is more revealing about who the person was and where they were coming from.

One of Georgia's inspirations for her works comes from the surroundings of Sante Fe New Mexico, which she referred to as the "The Faraway". After a summer trip to New Mexico with a friend, O'Keeffe returned every year until settling after her husband's death. There, she was stirred by the never-ending landscapes and open skies which she happily incorporated into her works.

Also, you will learn about the man who introduced us to O'Keeffe's works, Alfred Stieglitz. A renowned photographer, Steiglitz opened a number of galleries, including Gallery 291 which was the location of O'Keeffe's first exhibit.

 

 

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