Georgia O'Keeffe (Critical Lives)

Georgia O'Keeffe (Critical Lives)

Language: English

Pages: 272

ISBN: 1780234287

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


Georgia O’Keeffe, the most famous woman artist of American modernism and a pioneer in abstract art, created a vision without precedent. She expressed the grandeur of her world in the Southwest, from the high desert mesas to the smallest flower, with fierce independence. And a separate world has risen up around her fame: from the photographic nudes of her by Alfred Stieglitz to the iconic images of her, years later, set in the stunning landscapes of New Mexico.
           
In this book, Nancy J. Scott draws on extensive sources—including many of O’Keeffe’s letters—to offer a sensitive and incisive examination of her groundbreaking works, their evolution, and how their reception has been caught in conflicts between O’Keeffe’s inner self and public persona. Following the young artist as her path-breaking, abstract charcoal landscapes caught the attention of gallery impresario Stieglitz, Scott tells the story of their partnership, of Stieglitz’s nudes, and the development of O’Keeffe’s early reputation as a sexually inspired, Freudian-minded artist. Scott explores the independent expression that O’Keeffe forged in opposition to the interpretations of her abstract work and the hybrid space that O’Keeffe’s works came to inhabit. Ultimately, she blended the abstract with the real in interpretations of flowers, bones, shells, rocks, and landscapes, which would become her hallmark subjects.

Unique to this biography is the inclusion of her letters—which have only recently been made available. They show that her words can be just as revelatory as her paintings, and they offer the intimate voice of an artist alive in an era of great artistic development. The result is a succinct yet comprehensive account of one of the most prolific and important artists of the twentieth century. 

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Standing Nude, Cadaqués (1910), a breakthrough sketch for Cubist figuration, was an early Stieglitz acquisition, and O’Keeffe commented on the work in the joint exhibition of 1914–15, one year before her own evolution in charcoal.56 Georgia O’Keeffe, Drawing XIII, 1915, charcoal on paper. At the time of O’Keeffe’s first showing, however, the press reaction wavered in the face of what remained difficult non-figurative art, presented without explanation, ‘tacked up on the walls’. Stieglitz’s

down the Hudson, the aeroplane ride a gift from Norman.51 Surviving this, Stieglitz was met by his friend Louis Kalonyme at the airport with the news that O’Keeffe had wired: ‘Yes Yes Yes’ – she was on the way home. His excited telegram to her, still en route, rivals the denouement of a Hollywood movie. Once he landed at Flushing Bay airport (New York), ‘a man came rushing breathlessly calling Stieglitz’, who handed over ‘your wire . . . Can you imagine my state . . . ’. He then took a waiting

George. She had to face the difficulty of leaving Stieglitz yet again. Now she knew both the sacrifice and importance for her art, the benefit to her own well-being, if she could keep the vital connection in painting New Mexico. O’Keeffe anticipated Stieglitz’s potential misery when she was away travelling, and began a series of paintings at Lake George, Jack-in-the-Pulpit. With a burst of energetic investigation, she evolved six variations on a theme of increasing abstraction, the images

Foundation? Her immersion in the great collection had yielded no place for her paintings. Cow’s Skull created a powerful image for her celebration of ‘the Great American Thing’. It may also encode her private rebuke to Barnes and ‘the men’ for her rude dismissal from his collection in 1930. Georgia O’Keeffe, Cow’s Skull: Red, White, and Blue, 1931, oil on canvas. During the 1932 season, what must have felt like the ultimate humiliation for O’Keeffe cascaded down upon her splintered marital

continued, and opened one pathway for her future reputation. The other rested on Stieglitz’s legacy, and her intertwined reputation in getting it right. At this point in her career the critics identified her as the nation’s most famous woman artist, though Clement Greenberg famously dismissed her work as both ‘hygienic’ and ‘scatological’. His agenda turned modernist taste towards Abstract Expressionism, and explicitly buried the recent past, even revising his view on John Marin as ‘one of

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