“I've been absolutely terrified every moment of my life and I've never let it keep me from doing a single thing that I wanted to do.”
Nothing is less real than realism. Details are confusing. It is only by selection, by elimination, by emphasis, that we get at the real meaning of things.”
When you take a flower in your hand and really look at it, it's your world for the moment. I want to give that world to someone else.”
Today in our series of portraits on the women of CASA Georgia O'Keeffe the one who names our color Blue-green tropics.
Georgia O'Keeffe was born on November 15, 1887 on a farm in Wisconsin to a father of Irish origin and a Hungarian mother. She spent her childhood far from the city and became interested in nature and how to draw it from an early age. Her family encouraged her interest in art and sent her to schools where she pursued more classical academic studies as well as artistic training.
In 1905, young Georgia O'Keeffe left Wisconsin and her family to study at the Chicago Art Institute. She only stayed there for a year, having health problems, but a year later she found herself at the Lake George summer school, the recipient of a scholarship from the Art Student League of New York. She will have as professor William Merritt Chase who, himself very influenced by the work of Gauguin, will have a great importance in the artistic development of O'Keeffe. During this period, she got closer to the New York cultural milieu, visiting the 291 art gallery run by photographers Alfred Stieglitz and Edward Steichen. But, disappointed with the traditional education she received, she returned to her family.
O'Keeffe finds his family in a bad state, his mother ill and his father ruined. They no longer have the money for her to pursue art studies, so she becomes an illustrator in order to earn a living. She returned to painting in 1912 while attending a summer session at the University of Virginia. There she met Arthur Wesley Dowe, a professor who encouraged her to gradually abandon her realism from her academic training to explore abstraction.
While teaching art at Columbia University, she worked on a series of abstract charcoal drawings, making her one of the first American artists to embark on total abstraction. Georgia O'Keeffe sent some drawings to a friend, the latter showed them to Alfred Stieglitz, the New York photographer and gallery owner. In 1916, works by O'Keeffe found themselves exhibited at gallery 291, without the artist knowing it. Upon learning of this, she demanded that her drawings be removed, but finally accepted that her works be exposed.
It is here that a correspondence between O'Keeffe and Stieglitz begins and their friendship eventually turns into an affair. In 1918, the photographer hosted Georgia O'Keeffe's first solo exhibition. In 1924 she went from the status of mistress to that of a woman when she married this man 23 years her senior. They live between New York and Lake George and the painter evolves surrounded by all the big names in the New York artistic community of the time.
Stieglitz's muse, she also continues her work as an artist, often taking flowers as subjects, in close-ups and playing with perspective, or even New York skyscrapers. She became one of the best-known American artists and a representative of the modernist movement.
In 1929 she traveled for the first time to New Mexico where she found new sources of inspiration. After this first discovery, she spent more and more time there. There, she created some of her most important works and at the same time fled New York where her husband was having an affair with another woman. All the same, it was she who was at his bedside when he died in 1946 and who was responsible for managing his inheritance.
In the 1940s, two important retrospectives presented the work of Georgia O'Keeffe, one at the Art Institute of Chicago and the other at the MoMa, it was also the first exhibition that this museum mounted on the woman's work. In 1949, she settled permanently in New Mexico and continued her work far from New York. Its distance from the cultural center and the birth of new artistic movements overshadowed it a little, but a retrospective organized by the Whitney Museum in 1970 brought it back to the forefront, particularly in the eyes of new generations of artists.
The end of her life was marked by vision problems which gradually forced her to stop painting. She still continued to draw with the help of assistants and thus continued to create throughout her life. She also wrote her autobiography, agreed to be the subject of a film and a year before her death she received the National Arts Medal, crowning her career. She died on March 6, 1986 in Santa Fe at the age of 98.
She left behind an important and striking body of work which has earned her the reputation of being the mother of American modernism. Georgia O'Keeffe, through her success and her pioneering role in this very masculine environment, has also become a feminist icon. Feminism that she embodied so well with this statement:
“The men liked to put me down as the best woman painter. I think I'm one of the best painters. »