The Life and Paintings of Georgia O’Keeffe

Georgia O’Keeffe is one of the most famous American female artists of the American modernism movement. She was born in Wisconsin in 1887 and lived to the age of 98. After spending her early years in Wisconsin, she moved to Virginia with her family.

After studying in Chicago, she eventually moved to New York, where she lived until she moved to New Mexico in 1949 after settling the affairs of her husband, Alfred Stieglitz, who passed away in 1946. During much of the time she lived in New York she spent summers in New Mexico painting.

Georgia O’Keeffe is best known for her larger-than-life paintings of flowers, although she also painted bones, landscapes and the buildings of New York. Her abstract imagery of the 1910s and early 1920s is among the most innovative of any work produced in the period by American artists.


Many of her paintings were done in a series or a group of series, where she explored different ways of painting the same subject. Each series of paintings could take a year or more for her to complete.

Although she started out painting watercolors and sketches, over time she moved toward painting mostly oil paintings. While her early paintings tended to be more abstract, her later work tended to be more representational. See also this post about label-consciousness and the work of Franz Kline.

Although many critics called her artworks erotic, Georgia O’Keeffe would not interpret her work, preferring to let the pieces speak for themselves. She disagreed with the Freudian interpretations of her art and refused to participate in projects that celebrated what some art librarians and archivists called the “female iconography” of her art.

Starting in 1968, O’Keeffe started to have problems with her eyes. Macular degeneration made it difficult for her to paint or create works of art on her own by 1971. However, she still worked in charcoal and pencil until within a couple years of her death even though she had lost all of her central vision and had to rely only on her peripheral vision. She also completed some pottery and watercolors with assistance during this time.

Georgia O’Keeffe was presented with a number of awards, including the National Medal of Arts and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Check out also this article about the American Academy of Art and the Irving Shapiro Library. A species of archosaur, similar to present-day crocodiles, was named after her as well when the fossils were found in New Mexico in the quarry near her home at Ghost Ranch. After her death, her home was eventually designated a national historic landmark and is part of the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico.