Painter, America (1887–1986)
In a widely-male dominated art world, the painter Georgia O’Keeffe became one of the first female artists to gain critical acclaim around the globe in the twentieth century. New York cityscapes, magnified flowers as well as New Mexico landscapes summarize O’Keeffee’s paintings that transformed her into one of the most iconic contributors to the American Modernism. It wasn’t only her innovative talent though, but also her personality whose dynamism created a magnetic profile in the artistic circles. Here are the five things you should know about the Mother of American Modernism:
Jimson Weed/White Flower No.1 recently broke records by selling 44.4 million dollars
Yes, you read it right; Jimson Weed/White Flower No.1 is the most expensive painting ever sold made by a female artist at Sotheby’s in 2014. Although, depictions of flowers characterized her visual identity, O’Keeffe has admitted that she wasn’t really interested in flowers – she actually hated them, but painted them because they were cheaper than models. Jimson weed bloom among other natural sources such as flowers, physical landscapes, animals and bones, influenced the evolution of her artistic practice.
She wasn’t only the flower vagina painter
Flowers or Vaginas? This has been a tricky question about O’Keeffe’s paintings and probably something that she wouldn’t really like to be remembered for. The sexual reading into her paintings started in the middle of the twentieth century; on one hand, the Freudian theories about flower paintings recalling assumptions of the female genitalia, and on the other, the feminist movement in the 70s that interpreted her depictions as representations of female empowerment. Well, it seems quite easy for an artist to be misunderstood nowadays, doesn’t it?
“Men put me down as the best female painter…I think I am one of the best painters”
She has been recognized as the Mother of American Modernism. However categorizing as well as dividing artists according to gendered statements probably wasn’t O’Keeffe’s best thing. Having established a successful career since her early stages is a remarkable achievement; really, a great challenge for a female painter during the last century. Based on the above statement, the artist’s expectation for equality was more than evident as well as her strong confidence to recognize herself as one of the best painters. She deserves it!
She was Alfred Stieglitz’s wife and the muse he had always desired
O’Keeffe was married to the famous photographer Alfred Stieglitz and lived together almost 20 years. She wasn’t only his wife, but also his muse and model for his portraits. Besides her modernist painting depictions, O’Keeffe was also influenced by the art of photography: her painting patterns embodied photographic techniques such as the use of close up or cropping.
She was best known for the enlarged flower paintings as well as the American landscape ones.
She was keen on New York skyscraper paintings when she was young, but also countryside landscapes when she decided to move to New Mexico, US. Aiming to develop her artistic practice and to discover motivation to paint, she spent most of her time wandering around this area, collecting rocks and bones and exploring the region’s desserts, cliffs and mountains. O’Keeffe said about landscapes that “it was all so far away – there was quiet and an untouched feel to the country and I could work as I pleased”.
Image via: Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Philippe Halsman,