Georgia O’Keeffe is known as the Mother of American Modernism. She is famous for her paintings of enlarged flowers, southeastern landscapes, and animal skulls. She was also elected as a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. For more about her life as a revolutionary artist, here are the following facts.
1. She was deeply interested in the natural world.
- Though most renown for her close-up paintings of flowers, most of O’Keeffe’s 2000-plus works mainly featured landscapes, bones, rocks, shells, and leaves.
- She painted in any weather, contending with strong rain, wearing gloves in the cold, and rigging tents with tarps. She went camping and rafting even in her 70’s.
2. O’Keeffe married the art dealer and photographer who propelled her to fame.
- She mailed drawings to a friend who showed them to the influential Alfred Stieglitz. He displayed ten of her abstract charcoal drawings at his gallery without her knowledge.
- O’Keeffe was the subject of Stieglitz’s long-term series of portraits that captured people as they aged.
3. Her marriage was marked with affairs.
- She and Stieglitz began a live-in relationship after his wife caught him taking nude photographs of O’Keeffe. The couple divorced, allowing Stieglitz and O’Keeffe to marry.
- While she was painting and traveling between New York and New Mexico, Stieglitz had an affair with his mentee. The couple however stayed together until Stieglitz died.
4. O’Keeffe’s most famous works were her flower still-lifes.
- She experimented with perspective by painting large close-ups of flowers. She wished to show the observer what the flowers were to her, saying she would make “even busy New Yorkers take time to see what I see”.
- Critics have mistakenly thought the paintings represented female genitalia. O’Keeffe rejected any sexual interpretations, insisting such associations were theirs, not hers.
5. Her favorite place to paint was her car.
- O’Keeffe drove a customized Model-A Ford with detachable front seats. She would turn the passenger car to face the back seat which she used to prop up her canvases.
- The car protected her from bees and the unrelenting desert sun of New Mexico.
6. O’Keeffe never stopped creating.
- As she grew older, she began to lose her central vision. She still continued painting after completing her last unassisted piece, asking assistants to mix her oil paints and prepare her canvases.
- Even after going blind, O’Keeffe took up sculpting and watercolor with help from a friend. She also worked with pastel, charcoal, and pencil until she was 96.
7. Her favorite subject was a table mountain.
- A narrow table mountain called Cerro Pedernal could be seen from the front door of O’Keeffe’s house in New Mexico. It also appeared in 28 of her works.
- Following her wishes, her ashes were scattered on top of Cerro Pedernal.
8. O’Keeffe is one of America’s most celebrated icons.
- She was given the Presidential Medal of Freedom (the greatest civilian honor in the United States) and the National Medal of Arts.
- The US Postal Service honored her by issuing a 32-cent stamp of her painting “Red Poppy.”
Georgia O’Keeffe made a place for herself in New York’s male dominated and cutthoat art world. Her influence in changing the art scene has made her into one of the greatest female artists and an inspiration to women everywhere.