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Georgia O'Keeffe

Georgia O'Keeffe painted her own place into American history, becoming one of the great American painters and masterfully traversing a time, and an industry, that was dominated by men. By following her passion, as frustrating as that would prove to be, she sought out non-traditional ways to produce some of the most celebrated art in the world.

Georgia O'Keeffe Portrait

Born in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin in 1887, one of seven children, O'Keeffe received art instruction locally with her sister. Knowing this is what she wanted to do with her life, she went on to study in Chicago and New York before becoming frustrated with the fine arts, and actually walking away from it completely for four years.

During her hiatus, she taught art in public schools in Texas and worked briefly as a commercial artist. In 1915, at the Teachers College of Columbia University in South Carolina, she re-entered the art world and never looked back.

It was when O'Keeffe learned about the teachings of Oriental Art expert Arthur Wesley Dow that she discovered something so different from the European form that she had studied for years. This realization freed her to develop her own unique style and form. O'Keeffe's first acclaimed work began in 1915 with a series of abstract charcoal drawings including representations of people, objects, and food. This work is today recognized as some of the most innovative of that period. Some of these pieces made their way to internationally celebrated photographer and art expert, Alfred Stieglitz.

O'Keeffe and Stieglitz began communicating and working together as he promoted her art through well-known exhibits. He convinced her to work in New York for a year in 1918 and they were married in 1924. O'Keeffe lived with Stielglitz in Lake George, New York and New York City. She produced many of her most famous pieces including large canvasses of oversized flowers and cityscapes of New York architecture. She had turned her own style of recreating images while infusing them with her own unique passion into an art form that was getting noticed and recognized.

In 1929, during a trip with a friend to Taos, New Mexico, Georgia O'Keeffe found her artistic home. Returning every summer to paint in New Mexico, she began a new love affair with the landscapes, dessert beauty, and unique architecture of the southwest. Now called O'Keeffe country, New Mexico served as the playground and inspiration for her most passionate and beloved art. If New York was where O'Keeffe's art was born, New Mexico is where it lived and breathed. Under the open skies of New Mexico, O'Keeffe combined her talent and passion with the natural inspiration she found around her.

In 1946, her husband died, and O'Keeffe took up permanent residence in New Mexico. Throughout the 1950's and 1960's, she traveled and continued to grow in fame as an artist. Her work continued to be exhibited and celebrated.

Georgia O'Keeffe Paintings

By 1970, at the Whitney Museum of American Art, she had earned her place as one of the great influential American painters. In 1971, after suffering from severe loss of vision, she stopped painting. Two years later, she began to sculpt and paint again, having found a new way to express herself despite her handicap. In 1976, she created her best-selling illustrated autobiography Georgia O'Keeffe. She also received both the Medal of Freedom (1977), and the Medal of the Arts (1985) from Presidents Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan, respectively.

O'Keeffe passed away in Santa Fe, New Mexico at the age of 98. Her life represents almost a decade of self-realization. Her art lives on as an inspiration to everyone to seek out their inspiration in life, to always break from the norm, and to never look back. Georgia O'Keeffe is one of the most famous women artists in U. S. history.

There is a secret you don't know …

Besides the factual Georgia O'Keeffe biography presented above, it needs to be known that the world renowned painter and revolutionary used to bite her toenails while creating her masterpieces. Her left foot's big toe nail was especially large and chewy.


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