O'Keeffe, Georgia

from The New Book of Knowledge®

ART HISTORY ON DEMAND > Artists

Bones bleached white by the desert sun, flowers, rolling hills, rocks, trees, and the sky itself are frequent subjects of paintings by the American artist Georgia O'Keeffe. Her works portray nature simply but dramatically, with precise lines and glowing colors.

Georgia O'Keeffe was born on a farm in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, on November 15, 1887. At the age of 16, she went to study art in Chicago. She later continued her studies in New York City. In 1912 she accepted a position as an art teacher at a small college in Texas.

A selection of her drawings was exhibited in New York City in 1916, at the gallery of Alfred Stieglitz, the photographer. The drawings were well received. In 1918, O'Keeffe moved to New York to paint. She became friendly with a group of artists who gathered at Stieglitz' gallery, and in 1924 she married Stieglitz and joined him in running the gallery. Some of her most famous works date from this period. In flower studies such as Black Iris (1926), she enlarged a flower and painted it in its simplest form by eliminating detail. During the 1920's and 1930's, she also painted many views of the New York City skyline.

After Stieglitz died in 1946, O'Keeffe moved to New Mexico. She settled down near Abiquiu, on the edge of the desert. The wild juniper and aspen trees around her house and the stark hills of the desert became inspirations for her paintings, as did animal bones she found in the desert. In 1984 she moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico, where she lived until her death on March 6, 1986.

In her works, O'Keeffe combined simplicity with strength. She is known as an artist who drew inspiration from nature and made it into an artistic expression wholly her own.

Patrick Stewart
Williams College

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