Georgia O’Keeffe

Date January 14, 2008 at 11:00 PM

Categories Culture


Georgia Totto O'Keeffe

November 15, 1887 - March 6, 1986

Perhaps the most famous, and infamous, woman artist of the 20th century was born in a farmhouse on a large dairy farm in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin. Georgia O'Keeffe was the second of seven children in a family which prized education. Throughout her childhood Georgia took private art lessons from teachers in Wisconsin and later in Virginia.

After graduating high school in 1905, O'Keeffe studied at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Georgia fell ill with Typhoid fever and left the Art Institute after one year. In 1907 she attended the Art Students League in New York City, where she studied with William Merritt Chase the American Impressionist painter and teacher.

In the years between 1908 and 1914 Georgia alternately taught and studied art, living in Texas and Virginia. Georgia first became acquainted with Alfred Stieglitz when 10 of her drawings were shown at his New York gallery 291 in 1916. She then returned to Texas to teach in the fall. O'Keeffe first visited New Mexico where she spent several days on her return from a vacation in Colorado in 1917.

Georgia returned to New York in 1918 continuing her painting and beginning her relationship with Alfred Stieglitz. In 1924, O'Keeffe and Stieglitz married, following the finalization of his divorce, and they spent winter and spring in Manhattan and summer and fall at the Stieglitz family house at Lake George in upstate New York.

While living in New York Georgia traveled often and began to visit New Mexico more and more frequently. In the summer of 1929 O'Keeffe went to New Mexico with Rebecca Strand, wife of Paul Strand. They went to Santa Fe and then to Taos where they stayed at Mabel Dodge Luhan's ranch for the summer. Georgia returned to New Mexico in the summer of 1934. That summer, she discovered and fell in love with Ghost Ranch, an area north of Abiquiu.

Georgia purchased a house on Ghost Ranch in 1940 and she would return to "her land"€ each summer until Stieglitz's death. By 1949 she moved to New Mexico permanently. O'Keeffe referred to the land of northern New Mexico as "the faraway"€... a place of stark beauty and infinite space.

Georgia lived and painted at Ghost Ranch for over 30 years. She explored the landscape, especially Pedernal mountain, and produced extensive series of paintings in both oil and watercolor. But by the early 1970s, O'Keeffe's eyesight began to be compromised by macular degeneration which pushed her work away from painting to clay, graphite and charcoal.

Her health failing, O'Keeffe moved to Santa Fe in 1984 to be closer to medical facilities. She died at St. Vincent's Hospital, Santa Fe on March 6, 1986 at the age of 98. Georgia was cremated and her ashes scattered around Pedernal, the mountain that she could see from the patio of her Ghost Ranch house.

Georgia O'Keeffe said of Pedernal, "It's my private mountain, It belongs to me. God told me if I painted it enough, I could have it."€