Georgia O'Keeffe Art History Presentation ~ 224 Slides
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This is a very complete presentation of O'Keefe's work and her life as it influenced that work. Her painting is covered from the initial watercolors from 1916 right up through the loss of her eyesight to macular degeneration and starting to make ceramics. The preview gives an excellent idea of what the entire presentation is like. The preview contains 20 actual slides.
This contains an exhaustive amount of her art plus full biographical details, her own direct quotes and her photos by her husband and gallery owner, Alfred Stieglitz. Their influence and effect on one another is also included. Her artistic periods include New York City, Lake George, New Mexico plus a trip to Hawaii which also yielded a lot of work.
O’Keeffe initially grew up on a dairy farm in Wisconsin. While she was still in school her parents moved the family to Virginia. She studied thereafter at some seminal colleges but because of her being a woman at that time, she was not able to be on the same academic trajectory as a male student. She studied at: School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Columbia University, and the University of Virginia.
This probably helped her art career overall as she got the advanced education but could not keep falling back on being a professor at a university. Instead, she gave all of her attention to being a painter.
The biggest event which happened to launch her career was that she met Alfred Stieglitz. He was not only a leading photographer in New York but also owned and ran the 291 Gallery there. O’Keeffe mailed her charcoal drawings to Anita Pollitzer, a photographer in the same circle as Stieglitz. Pollitzer took them to Stieglitz in 1916. Stieglitz was bowled over, saying to Pollitzer that the drawings were the "purest, finest, sincerest things that had entered 291 in a long while.”
This was the beginning of their historic union. They would ultimately marry. Professionally though it was even better. He gained his best photography model and best selling painter in O’Keeffe. She gained her very own art dealer at a New York City leading gallery at the start of her career as a painter. In the art world, it doesn’t get much better than this.
In 1921 Alfred Steiglitz had a show of his photographic work. 45 of 125 works were of O’Keeffe at least partially nude.
O’Keeffe was also not yet married to him. He was still married to someone else. Plus she was 24 years younger than he.
The critical reaction to her after this show would have an effect on O’Keefe’s own art style. The critics had been talking about her work as sexual because of what they saw in her paintings. When they saw this show, her nudity in it sealed their sexual perception of her. O’Keeffe was insulted. She considered her work a lot deeper than just about sex.
So in the early 1920s, she moved her style more towards representational imagery since the critics were turning her abstract style into sexual titillation about fertility, the female orgasm, and the like. Had this not happened with the critics, her paintings would not have taken a shift towards the more representational from the early 1920s forward.
Ironically, in the 1970s, feminists tried to adopt O'Keeffe as theirs because of her "female iconography,” i.e. those very same sexual flowers. O'Keeffe rejected all overtures and refused to cooperate with any of their projects.
Like most artists, O’Keeffe had to bear the art world’s tendency to classify and pigeon hole the artists of its time. Most of these artists are intense loners who spend an enormous amount of time doing their art and nothing else. O’Keeffe’s preference for long sojourns on her own in both Lake George and New Mexico fits that personality type. So imagining such an artist in group meetings, setting rules for a group style, can only be imagined by someone other than the artist(s). Art critics, curators and museum directors are usually the people carving out “movements.”
O’Keeffe was too much of an iconoclast to be a painter via any group thinking effort. Nevertheless, art critics labeled many artists working in the 1920s and 1930s as Precisionists and that is where O’Keeffe got lumped.
This style involved painting the new American landscape of skyscrapers, bridges, and factories in a part Cubist part Realist style. O’Keeffe did not even do many of these paintings. These are dwarfed by her other subject matter.
Back in their day, these painters were called the "Immaculates." This term did not last and they were later renamed the Precisionists. The new term was attributed to Museum of Modern Art director, Alfred H. Barr.
If you research O’Keeffe, the word “Precisionism” often comes after her name. The truth is that art critics of her day were very rigid and had great difficulty characterizing the artists of that time and especially O’Keeffe.
Beginning in 1929, O’Keeffe began working part of the year in Northern New Mexico. This was in part because Stieglitz had a relationship going with another woman. Their relationship was in decline. She was also bored with Lake George and could barely stand dealing with the New York art world. Additionally, the summers at Lake George involved being surrounded by the Stieglitz family and their friends, which also ran contrary to her own solitary tendencies.
She loved New Mexico plus it had a good effect on her work. From 1929 to 1949, she stayed up to six months there, painting. Each winter she journeyed back to Stieglitz's gallery to exhibit the new work. She was always in his top two artists as far as sales at his gallery.
O'Keeffe was on totally new terrain so she found totally new subjects to paint. The animal bones and the mountains appealed to her. Her odd juxtapositions of the bones with other parts of the New Mexican landscape led some to describe that work as surrealist. Critical reception to these bone paintings was lukewarm, however, and the public still preferred her flowers. Her bone paintings gradually achieved the attention they deserved.
Many people do not realize O’Keeffe had a whole other full life as a painter before she arrived in New Mexico. She already had a huge body of work created in both New York City and Lake George. Her flower paintings were mainly done while she lived in New York state.