"My painting is what I have to give back to the world
for what the world gives to me."
- Georgia O’Keeffe
Georgia O’Keeffe’s contribution to modern art has long been established, making her one of the most significant artists of the 20th century, both in the United States and in the rest of the world.
Born on November 15, 1887, in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, she grew up surrounded by her six siblings on the family farm. After graduating high school in 1905, she moved to Chicago, determined to become a great artist. There, she attended the Art Institute of Chicago and later moved to New York to attend the Arts Students’ League. Those years were instrumental for her first approach to the art world and artistic techniques, but another important event in her life and career would be her encounter with Arthur Wesley Dow.
Throughout the years, she experimented with abstraction, developing her own personal language, and expanding her connections within the art world by getting to know and eventually marrying Alfred Stieglitz, the well-known art dealer and photographer. Alfred was the first to exhibit her works, doing so in 1916. By the mid-1920s, Georgia was already recognized as one of the most established and successful contemporary artists in America. Her signature paintings of flowers would soon start to enter the American collective as signature images and they are today still very easily recognizable for their reference to the female body and for her ability to create life and beauty (fig. 1).
Fig. 1 – Georgia O’Keeffe, Blue Line, 1919, Georgia O’Keeffe Museum
(© Georgia O’Keefee Museum)
Another important event in O’Keeffe’s life and artistic career was her first trip to New Mexico in the summer of 1929. The Native American and Hispanic cultures, as well as the dry land, slowly inspired her and became one of the most recognizable influences in her paintings. She continued to travel to New Mexico for the next 20 years until she finally moved there in 1949, soon after her husband’s death (fig 2).
Fig 2 - Georgia O’Keeffe, Black Mesa Landscape, New Mexico / Out Back of Marie’s II,
1930, Georgia O’Keeffe Museum (© Georgia O’Keeffe Museum)
Her interest in landscapes and spectacular views kept growing even after her move to New Mexico. Her eagerness to travel did not diminish, but rather expanded to international explorations as well. She moved on to depict the monumental Peruvian peaks and the highest mountains of Japan and she started taking an interest in a new subject, the sky and clouds (fig. 3).
Fig. 3 – Georgia O’Keeffe, Above the Clouds, 1962-1963, Georgia O’Keeffe Museum
(© Georgia O’Keefee Museum)
As the years passed, O’Keeffe’s eyesight started to show signs of her age. The last painting that she realized, completely on her own, was created in 1972. Nevertheless, she continued creating in her mind, and with the help of assistants translated her favorite motifs, the landscapes and views from her years of travelling, into sketches and paintings. In 1977, she stated: “I can see what I want to paint. The thing that makes you want to create is still there.” Georgia O’Keeffe died in Santa Fe on March 6, 1986, at the age of 98.
Most of her body of work is now part of the permanent collection of the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, which includes around 150 paintings and hundreds of works on paper. Her work has been well known and highly recognized in the United States for many decades now and has also begun to attract a lot of attention from foreign countries in the past decade. In the last few years, the value of her art has been increasing, as shown by Artprice’s diagram below (fig. 4).
Fig. 4 – Georgia O’Keeffe’s turnover from 2000 to 2022 (© Artprice.com)