Written by SurfWriter Girls Sunny Magdaug and Patti Kishel
With wildflowers in bloom, now is the perfect time to remember famed artist Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986), known for her colorful images of larger-than-life flowers. Called the “Mother of American modernism,” O’Keeffe found inspiration in the desert vistas outside her New Mexico home.
A child of the Midwest, she grew up in Wisconsin and attended the Art Institute of Chicago and Art Students League college in New York where she met her mentor and future husband photographer, avant-garde art promoter Alfred Stieglitz (who took this photograph).
Stieglitz introduced O’Keeffe to the works of Henri Matisse, Paul Cezanne, Auguste Rodin, Pablo Picasso and other leading impressionist and abstract artists, encouraging her to push the boundaries of her classical art training to find her own creative voice.
Taking his advice, O’Keeffe “decided to start anew – to strip away what I had been taught – to accept as true my own thinking.” Saying, “I have things in my head that are not like what anyone has taught me” she set out to put them on paper and canvas, creating charcoal drawings and vivid watercolors of both geometric and organic forms.
Later, working in oils, she developed a naturalistic style that amplified nature and created stylized images of familiar objects and scenes. Looking at flowers in a way that others hadn’t, O’Keeffe highlighted their curves and depicted their innermost structures.
Some of her works were influenced by music, in which she gave form to the sounds she heard, such as in her “Music – Pink and Blue” series.
Though known for her flowers and landscapes, O’Keeffe also did a striking series of cityscapes, characterized by straight lines, sharp angles and soaring skyscrapers that provide a totally different view of Manhattan. In executing the paintings, she particularly wanted to capture the light that filtered through the skyline and reflected off the windows.
In addition to the natural settings around her, O’Keeffe found an affinity with Chinese art and its emphasis on harmony and simplicity, incorporating some of these principles into her own work.
Complex and open to new ways of seeing, Georgia O’Keeffe was one of those legendary artists whose works are instantly recognizable, but never predictable. Like the scenes she painted and nature itself, she was always changing…and forever changed the way her viewers saw the world.
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