Guest Author - Carol Taller
Georgia O’Keefe, best known for her unique still life and landscape paintings, was born on November 15, 1887. She was born in San Prarie, Wisconsin and was the second oldest out of seven siblings.
At the age of sixteen she and her family moved to Williamsburg, Virginia where she took her first art lesson. Later she studied at the Art Institute in Chicago followed by the Art Students League in New York.
While in New York she discovered the art studio “291”, a gallery run by Alfred Stieglitz. At this time her father’s business was failing and she was encouraged to sell her own art to help support the family.
Eventually, she moved with her family to Charlotte, Virginia, and then to Amarillo, Texas, where she worked as a drawing and penmanship teacher. During her summers she worked as a assistant to artist Alon Bement, who encouraged O’Keefe to further her studies in New York with artist Arthur Wesley Dow. Dow was experimental in his painting approach and had a strong affect on O’Keefe’s artwork.
While back in New York O’Keefe continued to frequent studio “291” and her friendship with Stieglitz grew. In 1921 Stieglitz photographed her nude and many of the photos were exhibited in his gallery. The two were married in 1924 after Stieglitz’s divorce was finalized with his first wife. Together they moved into at 28th floor penthouse in the Shelton Hotel. O’Keefe began to paint cityscapes and skylines during this period of her life.
In 1946 Stieglitz died of a stroke. O’Keefe remained in New York for two more years, but lived mostly in New Mexico for the rest of her life.
O'Keefe was bored by society and preferred to live in solitude. She took long walks by herself. She was perceived as odd: she wore mostly black tailored clothes and wore her hair strikingly pulled back.
At the age of 84 O’Keefe started to lose her eyesight. She did her last solo painting in 1972. In 1973 Juan Hamilton, a young male artist, offered his help as an assistant. Their relationship was controversial as he became her companion and assistant.
As O’Keefe’s health declined she moved to Sante Fe with Hamilton and his family. She died in 1986. O’Keefe left a good part of her estate to Hamilton and he eventually turned over a large portion of the estate to museums.