Georgia O`Keeffe

Georgia O`Keeffe

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Georgia Totto O’Keeffe was an American artist, widely regarded as one of the great modernist painters of the 20th century. The style she used stressed contours and subtle tonal transitions, which often transformed the subject into a powerful abstract image.Childhood, education, and early careerGeorgia O`Keeffe was born in 1887 to dairy farmers in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin. She moved to Virginia in 1903 and graduated from high school in 1905.Later that year, O`Keeffe traveled to Chicago, Illinois to study painting at the Art Institute of Chicago. She won the League`s William Merritt Chase still-life prize for her oil painting "Untitled" (dead rabbit with copper pot), in 1908. It was owned by Alfred Stieglitz, renowned photographer and her future husband.In the fall of 1908, O`Keeffe returned to Chicago, where she worked as an illustrator. It was there that O`Keeffe was introduced to the cutting-edge ideas of Arthur Wesley Dow during a course conducted by Alon Bement.From 1912 to 1914, O`Keeffe taught art and penmanship in the Amarillo, Texas, public schools, and she spent her summers in Charlottesville working as Bement`s teaching assistant. In 1916, she met and studied with Dow.In 1915, O`Keeffe attended Columbia College in Columbia, South Carolina. On April 3, 1917 Steiglitz held her first one-person show at his gallery, exhibiting many of the watercolors she had produced while in Vermont.In 1916, O`Keeffe returned to New York to Teachers College to attend a course in Dow`s teaching methods, as a prerequisite to assuming a position at West Texas State Normal College in Canyon. She acepted an invitation to move to New York to work for Steiglitz; she arrived in June 1918.Romantic involvement and a blossoming careerIn July 1918, Steiglitz left his wife, Emmeline, to live with O`Keeffe. They spent their winters in Manhattan and their summers at the Stieglitz family house, at Lake George in upstate New York.During the 1920s, O`Keeffe produced a large number of landscapes and botanical studies during the annual trips to Lake George. She rendered her first huge flower painting in 1924, "Corn, Dark I," and it was first exhibited in 1925. Starting in 1926, she produced a significant body of works depicting urban landscapes and Skyscrapers. In 1928 six of her calla lily paintings sold for $25,000, which was at the time the largest sum ever paid for a group of paintings by a living American artist.Between 1929 and 1949, O`Keeffe traveled to New Mexico almost annually. Some of her most famous works are the landscapes she painted of Ghost Ranch.In 1942, the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York established a project to catalog her work. She also was awarded honorary degrees by numerous universities.Losing StieglitzIn 1946, O`Keeffe`s husband died. She spent the next three years in New York settling his estate, then moved to New Mexico permanently in 1949.Toward the end of the 1960s, O`Keeffe`s eyesight became poor, and by 1972 she could hardly see at all. He became O`Keeffe`s close companion, assisting her with her final artwork, and the completion of a book titled Georgia O’Keeffe, published in 1976. She completed her final unassisted work in oil in 1972, and worked unassisted in watercolor and charcoal until 1978, and in graphite until 1984.In 1984 O`Keeffe moved with Hamilton to his home in Santa Fe, to be closer to medical facilities. She was cremated and her ashes scattered at Ghost Ranch.EpilogueGeorgia O`Keeffe was inducted into the National Women`s Hall of Fame. The United States Postal Service honored O`Keeffe by issuing a stamp of "Red Poppy" (1927). Permanent collections of O`Keeffe`s work include those at the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City; the Art Institute of Chicago; the Boston Museum of Fine Arts; the Philadelphia Museum of Art; and the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

For additional famous women, see Important and Famous Women in America.

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