The Strange and Tragic Love Life of Georgia O’Keeffe

By | November 8, 2018

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American artist Georgia O'Keeffe (1887 - 1986) stands at an easel outdoors, adjusting a canvas from her 'Pelvis Series- Red With Yellow,' Albuquerque, New Mexico, 1960. (Photo by Tony Vaccaro/Getty Images)

Painter Georgia O’Keeffe has been called the ‘Mother of American Modernism’, and certainly, her paintings are recognized worldwide. Her body of work spans much more than the detailed flowers and desert scenes of the American southwest that she has become known for. In her 98 years on earth, she was a prolific artist and a superstar in the art community. In her personal life, however, O’Keeffe’s artistic passion often overshadowed her relationships and she preferred to hide in the solitude of her paints. 

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O’Keeffe Wanted to be Her Own Person…and Her Own Artist

In the early 1900s, Georgia O’Keeffe studied art at both the Art Institute of Chicago and the Art Students League of New York, but she found the instructions to be restricting. Instead of painting exact replicates of the scenes she saw, she wanted to paint her own interpretation of them, much to the displeasure of her teachers. She left school and taught for several years while refining and perfecting her own artistic style. While chair of the art department at West Texas State Normal College, she painted a series of watercolors of the sunrises and sunsets in a nearby canyon. The vivid colors and shapes in her paintings were unique and caught the attention of a New York gallery owner and art promoter, Alfred Stieglitz.