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  • Russ Ramsey

Getting to Know Georgia O'Keeffe

For this Art Wednesday we’ll look at a collection of work by the American painter, Georgia O’Keeffe. My high school art teacher loved O’Keeffe. Hearing someone you respect gush over an artist often raises that art in your mind.

Georgia O’Keeffe, Oriental Poppies, 1928


From the O’Keeffe Museum in New Mexico: “Georgia O’Keeffe is one of the most significant and intriguing artists of the twentieth century, known internationally for her boldly innovative art.”

Georgia O’Keeffe, Portrait with Hands, 1918


From the O’Keeffe Museum: “Her distinct flowers, dramatic cityscapes, glowing landscapes, and images of bones against the stark desert sky are iconic and original contributions to American Modernism.”

Georgia O'Keeffe, Rams Head with Holly Hock, 1935


O’Keeffe was born in Wisconsin on Nov 15, 1887, as the second of seven children. She studied art in Chicago and New York. She trained in realism, but then pivoted to more design-oriented composition.

Georgia O'Keeffe, Red Canna, 1924


O’Keeffe was one of the earliest American painters to work in abstract art. This work depicted a lot of skyscrapers and flowers. When she showed her abstract work in New York, it was met with critical acclaim.

Georgia O’Keeffe, Blue and Green Music, 1921


In 1929 O’Keeffe made her first trip out to the American west—New Mexico—and fell in love with the stark landscape and native art she saw. She traveled there many times until relocating there permanently two decades later.

Georgia O’Keeffe, Deer’s Skull with Pedernal, 1936


From the O’Keeffe Museum: “Suffering from macular degeneration and discouraged by failing eyesight, O’Keeffe painted her last unassisted oil painting in 1972. Later, almost blind, she enlisted the help of assistants to help her create.”

Georgia O'Keeffe, The Beyond, 1972


Blind, “in 1977, at age 90, she observed, ‘I can see what I want to paint. The thing that makes you want to create is still there.’ In these works she returned to favorite visual motifs from her memory and vivid imagination.”

Georgia O’Keeffe, From a Day with Juan II, 1977


That’s it for today’s Art Wednesday. I’m struck by how many artists I know of have dealt with failing eyesight: Jimmy Abegg, Georgia O’Keeffe, Claude Monet, and Edgar Degas. Their lives and work are a testimony to the transcendent power of beauty.

Georgia O’Keeffe, Cows Skull, Red, White, and Blue, 1931


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