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O'Keeffe, Georgia
Georgia O'Keeffe (1887-1986)
Birth Place Sun Prairie, Wisconsin
Death Place Santa Fe, New Mexico
Born 1887
Died 1986
General Notes Born on a dairy farm near Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, Georgia O'Keeffe began receiving art instruction when she was a child. Eventually, she would study at several distinguished art schools, including the School of the Art Institute of Chicago; the Art Students League in New York City, under William Merritt Chase; and Teachers College, Columbia University, under Arthur Wesley Dow. O'Keeffe herself began teaching art in 1911, obtaining appointments at Chatham Episcopal Institute in Chatham, Virginia; the University of Virginia, Charlottesville; and Columbia College in Columbia, South Carolina. While in South Carolina, O'Keeffe had an epiphany that transformed her artistic method; rather than emulate her teachers' work, she would express through art her most private sensations. The result was her seminal series of abstract charcoal drawings, which her former classmate Anita Pollitzer showed to Alfred Stieglitz; he exhibited some of them at his Manhattan gallery, 291, in 1916. That same year O'Keeffe took a teaching position at West Texas State Normal College in Canyon, Texas. Georgia O'Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz, who was married at the time, began an affair upon O'Keeffe's return from Texas to New York City in 1918. For the next few years, their careers were closely aligned. Stieglitz, who had given O'Keeffe her first solo exhibition at his 291 gallery the previous year, made numerous photographs of her, including a famous set of nude studies. At the same time, having worked extensively in watercolor in Texas, O'Keeffe returned to the oil medium in a group of deeply colored abstractions that echo the intensity of Stieglitz's photographs. She began spending part of each year in Lake George, New York, the summer residence of Stieglitz's family, where she painted the local landscape. In 1920 she also began spending time in York, Maine; its more isolated environment better suited her independent spirit. In 1924 Georgia O'Keeffe married Alfred Stieglitz, who promoted her work through major solo exhibitions nearly every year of that decade. During this period, she focused on urban architectural landmarks, magnified flowers, and fruit still lifes. Her boldly colored flowers-red cannas, white and yellow calla lilies, and black irises-caused a sensation in New York City. Critics often ascribed sexual content to their sensual forms and saw her work as the ultimate expression of the female psyche. O'Keeffe strongly objected to such Freudian readings of her flowers, saying that others should not project their own interpretations onto her highly personal imagery. By the late 1920s, Georgia O'Keeffe longed for a return to the liberating spaces of the vast western landscape. Her visit to Taos during the summer of 1929 marked the first of many sojourns in New Mexico. Much of the imagery she produced for the rest of her life would center on the Southwest. She found inspiration in the region's Native American culture and in its austerely beautiful landscape. The artist made regular trips back to New York City to see her husband, Alfred Stieglitz, who, despite declining health, continued exhibiting and championing her work until he died in 1946. Around that time, she established roots in the village of Abiquiu, moving there for good in 1949. Beginning in the late 1960s, O'Keeffe's work attained nationwide popularity. She received many honors, and major museums around the country accorded her retrospective exhibitions. In 1984 ill health forced her to leave her beloved rural Abiquiu home for Santa Fe, where she died two years later.
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