Art on This Day
Georgia Totto O’Keeffe (15 November 1887 – 6 March 1986) was an American artist who has been named the “mother of American modernism” due to her significant contributions to the period. O’Keeffe is best known for her paintings of enlarged flowers, landscapes and animal skulls.
O’Keeffe initially rejected the idea of pursuing a career as an artist, choosing instead to work as a commercial artist. Through her marriage to Alfred Stieglitz, owner of 291 gallery, O’Keeffe met a number of prolific modernist painters, like Charles Demuth, Arthur Dove and Paul Strand. Stieglitz was a photographer himself and he made 350 portraits of O’Keeffe, some of which depicted her in the nude. The portraits received vast public attention, with O’Keeffe commenting “I felt somehow that the photographs had nothing to do with me personally…I wonder who that person is. It is if in my one life I have lived many lives”.
During the 1920s, O’Keeffe worked to move away from the Freudian interpretations that surrounded her work. She painted a series of pictures depicting the aerial views of New York, and her magnified close ups of flowers had an air of abstractionism. By the 1930s O’Keeffe’s physical and emotional health came under strain, the artist had grown bored of Lake George where she resided and her relationship with Stieglitz was deteriorating. O’Keeffe moved permanently to New Mexico in 1949 where she began painting animal bones and mountains that captured the beauty of the desert.
O’Keeffe’s work has enjoyed much public attention and critical praise. In 1946 the Museum of Modern Art gave her the first retrospective the museum had ever held for a woman. Recently Tate Modern held an exhibition of her works, including Jimson Weed/White Flower No.1 which was the most expensive painting by a female artist ever sold. This exhibition was notable as it offered a rare opportunity to explore O’Keeffe’s works, since none of her works can be found in UK public collections.
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