O'Keeffe, Georgia

O'Keeffe, Georgia Biography

American abstract painter, one of the foremost painters in 20th-century American art, famous for the purity and lucidity of her still-life compositions.

O'Keeffe was born in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, and studied at the school of the Art Institute of Chicago and at the Art Students League of New York City. She taught art in Texas from 1913 to 1918. In 1916 the American photographer and art gallery director Alfred Stieglitz became interested in her abstract drawings and exhibited them at 291, his gallery in New York City.

O'Keeffe is best known for her large paintings of desert flowers, sun-bleached animal skulls, and New Mexico landscapes. On her first visit in 1929, she fell in love with the stark beauty of the New Mexican desert, and moved there in 1949. In her paintings she typically presented single blossoms or objects such as a cow's skull in close-up views. Although O'Keeffe handled her subject matter representationally, the starkly linear quality, the thin, clear coloring, and the boldly patterned compositions produce abstract designs. A number of her works have an abstracted effect, the flower paintings in particular-such as Black Iris (1926, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City)-in which the details of the flower are so enlarged that they become unfamiliar and surprising.

O'Keeffe painted her best-known works in the 1920s, '30s, and '40s, but she remained an active painter into the '80s. Her later works frequently celebrate the clear skies and desert landscapes of New Mexico. A retrospective exhibition of her art held at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1970 assured her reputation as one of the most original and important artists in modern American painting.

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