Thursday, April 26, 2012

Artist of the Week: Georgia O'Keeffe

Among the great American artists of the 20th-century, Georgia O’Keeffe stands as one of the most compelling. For nearly a century, O’Keeffe’s representations of the beauty of the American landscape were a brave counterpoint to the chaotic images embraced by the art world. Her cityscapes and still life's filled the canvas with wild energy that gained her a following among the critics as well as the public. Though she has had many imitators, no one since has been able to paint with such intimacy and stark precision. With exceptionally keen powers of observation and great finesse with a paintbrush, Georgia O'Keeffe recorded subtle nuances of color, shape, and light that enlivened her paintings and attracted a wide audience.

Georgia O'Keeffe's primary subjects were landscapes, flowers, and bones, explored in series over several years and even decades. The images were drawn from her life experience and related either generally or specifically to places where she lived. Remarkably, she remained independent from shifting art trends and stayed true to her own vision, which was based on finding the essential, abstract forms in nature. Born in 1887 near Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, Georgia O'Keeffe received art training at the Art Institute of Chicago school (1905), the Art Students League of New York (1907–8), the University of Virginia (1912), and Columbia University's Teachers College, New York (1914–16). Georgia O'Keeffe became an art teacher and taught in various elementary schools, high schools, and colleges in Virginia, Texas, and South Carolina from 1911 to 1918. During one such position, Georgia O'Keeffe produced a remarkable series of charcoal drawings that led her art, and her career, in a new direction.

Georgia O'keeffe erotic painting "Blue Flower"Georgia O'Keeffe was married to the pioneer photographer Alfred Stieglitz (1864-1946) in 1924. Alfred Stieglitz was 54 when Georgia arrived in New York, 23 years her senior. Educated in Berlin, he had studied engineering and photography before returning to the States at the turn of the century and opening the 291 gallery. He pioneered the art of photography, and single-handedly introduced America to the works of Picasso, Matisse, and Cezanne at the gallery, along with publishing his well respected "Camera Works" magazine. It was at Stieglitz's famed New York art gallery "291" that her charcoal drawings were first exhibited in 1916. The union lasted 22 years, until Stieglitz's death.

During the long winter months in New York Georgia O'Keeffe began to paint her very large flowers, some of her most popular work today. Georgia O'Keeffe completed her first enormous flower painting in 1924.The giant flower paintings were first exhibited in 1925. A Calla Lily painting would sell for $25,000 in 1928 and draw media attention to "O'Keeffe" like never before. Georgia's financial success would finally prove to her that an artist could make a living with a paintbrush. "I know now that most people are so closely concerned with themselves that they are not aware of their own individuality, I can see myself, and it has helped me to say what I want to paint" ,stated Georgia O'Keeffe referring to the 300 photos taken of her by her husband.
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