By Darla McCammon
Recognized as one of the greatest female artists in the world, Georgia O’Keefe, an American, brought her art to a distinctive style that is timeless yet difficult to categorize.
O’Keeffe was born in November of 1887, the oldest girl in a family of seven children. Four siblings, along with O’Keeffe, all showed artistic talent at an early age. The family lived on a farm in Sun Prairie, Wis., where their mother recognized and encouraged their ability. This was not a wealthy family but their mother had the conviction to make sure her children were educated. That education would include art and music. O’Keeffe proudly proclaimed, “I am going to become an artist,” when she was only 12 years old.
The family made sacrifices but managed to afford O’Keeffe more education in art after high school. They succeeded in enrolling her in the famed Art Institute of Chicago and later the Art Students’ League in New York. She studied under William Merritt Chase for a year at the League and won a scholarship at Lake George in upper New York. Here, she learned to enjoy painting outdoors in nature, a love that lasted a lifetime. Lake George was also the summer home of the Stieglitz family. Their son, Alfred, would later have a huge influence on O’Keeffe’s life and art. But at this juncture she had to drop out of college and find work in Chicago using her art as a freelance illustrator.
She moved on from that to teach art in schools in Texas, South Carolina and Virginia. During her teaching period, she took advantage of having personal time to spend on developing her own style of art. She had an artist friend, Anita Pollitzer, with whom she corresponded regularly. They exchanged drawings and unbeknownst to O’Keeffe, Pollitzer took these drawings into the famous Gallery 291 to show Alfred Stieglitz. He was impressed and began his own correspondence with O’Keeffe, which resulted in her moving to New York. Her work was exhibited in his gallery and within a year, she knew her dream to be an artist was realized.
Stieglitz and O’Keeffe eventually married and his photography also increased the public awareness of her work. They had a rocky relationship and after he became unfaithful, she discovered another love in her life: the beauty of the natural world in New Mexico. She began creating extraordinary paintings such as her Black Mesa Landscape, a beautiful portrayal done in oil on canvas, then mounted to a board.
This work is available to view at the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe. As a result of her enchantment with the western states, she moved out from New York and purchased a home in the West, where she remained for the rest of her life. Her paintings now go for millions at auction.
- Warsaw City Hall Art Gallery – Daniel Trump exhibit through October. To exhibit at city hall, email [email protected]
- Lakeland Art Gallery – Multiple exhibitors daily. Hours are from 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays at 302 E. Winona Ave., Warsaw
- Fort Wayne Arts Festival – Happening at Jefferson Pointe from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sept. 11, and noon to 5 p.m. Sept. 12, 4130 W. Jefferson Blvd., Fort Wayne