Georgia O'Keeffe Biography
One of the most successful artists of the 20th century, Georgia O’Keeffe enjoyed a long and varied artistic career in which she introduced many new aesthetic perspectives and approaches in Modernism. Born in Wisconsin in 1887, she studied at the Art Institute of Chicago beginning in 1905 before taking teaching position in South Carolina, Virginia and Texas. She moved to New York City in 1918 at the age of 31 where she became part of the artistic milieu of her future husband photographer Alfred Stieglitz. In these years, she became fascinated with the fast pace of city life and produced paintings highlighting the city’s soaring skyscrapers as symbols of the modern world.
O’Keeffe is best known for her paintings of the natural environment — namely flowers, animal skulls and the desert landscape, which she fully explored after moving to New Mexico. She stripped her subjects to their purest forms and colors to heighten their expressive power. She reduced the curved planes and contours of the flower to a symphony of basic colors, shapes, textures, and rhythms, simplifying the forms almost to the point of complete abstraction. Her flowers were almost immediately interpreted as being purposefully reminiscent of female genitalia, which O’Keeffe ardently rejected as diminishing of her painterly innovations. Indeed her works of this period led the way, artistically and ideologically, for the American understanding of and approach to abstraction that would take their true form in abstract expressionism of the 1950s and 60s.
O’Keeffe was prolific throughout her life, until her death at the age of 98. Her work has been exhibited as an indicative example of early American avant-garde painting. The Brooklyn Museum held a retrospective for her in 1927, when she was only forty years old. Her work can be found at the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Centre Pompidou, and other major museums around the world. O’Keeffe holds the record for the highest price paid for painting by a woman; Sotheby’s sold her Jimson Weed/White Flower No. 1 for $44.4 million in 2014.