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What the audience associated with the artist's giant flowers: Georgia O'Keeffe's magical feminine paintings
What the audience associated with the artist's giant flowers: Georgia O'Keeffe's magical feminine paintings

"Mother of American Modernism" - so they called Georgia O'Keeffe - one of the most distinctive and outstanding artists in the history of world painting of the last century. She became interested in large-scale painting of flowers. It was these works that brought her wide fame and became the object of research of psychoanalytic scientists, who unequivocally saw erotic overtones and phallic symbolism in her canvases. It is noteworthy that the artist herself strongly protested against such an assessment and claimed that it was in her colors. For nearly sixty years, she had to contend with conventional wisdom. But in whose words was the truth - today you judge.

Georgia O'Keeffe (1887-1986) is a famous American artist

Georgia O'Keeffe (1887-1986) lived for almost a hundred years. The most epochal events of an entire century passed before her, as well as a desperate struggle for the rights of women, blacks and sexual minorities. However, O'Keeffe did not paint hot topics or challenge anyone with her work. She simply wrote what she saw beauty - both in the world around her and in herself. It is with this that this extraordinary woman conquered the world.

The woman who was the first female artist to be awarded a solo exhibition in 1946 at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, who was a member of several art academies … A woman whose work is now estimated at millions of dollars. The desert landscapes of her beloved New Mexico and giant flowers served as her inspiration and made her famous all over the world.

Georgia O'Keeffe. Datura (1932), also known as White Flower # 1. (The canvas went under the hammer at Sotheby's New York auction house in November 2014 for $ 44.4 million. It set a price record for works of art created by women. The previous record was held by American Joan Mitchell.Her 1960 abstract painting Untitled was sold at Chrisite's for $ 11.9 million in May 2014. "Datura" bought the American Museum - Museum of American Art Crystal Bridges

A modernist and supermodel of her time, in 1936 she wrote her famous "Datura", not suspecting that later it would become the most expensive work of art created by a woman. However, like many of her other magnificent paintings, sold in our time at auctions for fabulous money.

Georgia O'Keeffe. Calla lilies on red. (1928). Sold at Sotheby's auction on November 14, 2018 for $ 6.2 million

Georgia described her unique method of working on paintings this way: "fill the empty space as beautifully as possible." An almost Buddhist approach to painting allowed her to achieve visual simplicity and conciseness. The image of small flowers filling the canvas speaks of the immensity of nature and encourages viewers to look at flowers in a different way. Therefore, for many years she had to contend with accusations that in each of her paintings depicting flowers, a stylized image of the vulva is visible. She herself, as well as many of her fans, did not understand what the crime was. After all, a really detailed image of the external organs of many flowers is surprisingly reminiscent of the structure of the female vulva …

Irises. Posted by Georgia O'Keeffe

However, the main reason for O'Keeffe's opposition was that she clearly understood: if a reputation, read by many as "flowers / female genitals", is fixed behind the subject of her work, the art market will reduce all her work to this profitable formula. She tried with all her might to resist this, but the artist's voice was lost in the chorus of interpreters.

A little about Georgia O'Keeffe

Georgia O'Keeffe was born in November 1887 on a large dairy farm in Wisconsin. She was the second child and first girl among her parents' seven offspring. However, three years later, the family sold the farm and moved to Virginia. The mother of a large family believed that all her children should receive a decent education in order to have a good job and a comfortable existence in the future.

Georgia O'Keeffe

I will be an artist

This is exactly how little Georgia declared for everyone, as, indeed, for herself. These words, although they were perceived as childhood fantasies, later determined the whole life of O'Keeffe. True, we must pay tribute to her parents, who gave their daughter the necessary education, without even thinking that she would settle down and change her profession.

In her early years, Georgia took private painting lessons in Wisconsin, and after graduating from high school moved to Chicago and entered the Institute of Arts. However, the girl's grandiose plans soon had to be changed due to illness. In those years, typhus was rampant in the United States, and Georgia had to fight a fatal illness for several months. After recovering, the girl left for New York and began to study at the Art Students League. This huge American city has become a landmark in the life of O'Keeffe. Here she began her career as an artist, here, after several years, she became famous, and here she met her destiny.

The love of two talented people

Alfred Stiglitz is a talented American photographer. (1902). / Georgia O'Keeffe in his youth

Alfred Stiglitz was not only a talented photographer of his time, but also a great connoisseur of art. Sometime in 1908, several charcoal drawings of Georgia fell into his hands. At the time, a young girl was teaching painting at a Texas college. Fascinated by them, Stiglitz exclaimed: and exhibited these works in his gallery. After a while, learning that her drawings were being exhibited without her knowledge, an angry Georgia came to New York, met with Stiglitz and demanded that he remove her work. However, the photographer put a lot of his charm and eloquence to convince the novice artist. By the time O'Keeffe left, Stiglitz was already completely fascinated not only by her paintings, but also by herself.

Flowers. Posted by Georgia O'Keeffe

In a little while, Stiglitz will organize Georgia O'Keeffe's first solo exhibition at his 291 Gallery. A year later, Georgia, having recovered from typhoid fever and left without work, succumb to the persuasion of Alfred and finally move to New York to start a new life as an artist, muse and lover of Stiglitz. They were not embarrassed either by the age difference of almost 24 years, or by the fact that the photographer was still married to another.

Flowers. Posted by Georgia O'Keeffe

For the next several years, Georgia and Alfred were inseparable. He was everything to her: teacher, philanthropist, lover. Georgia was finally completely happy, she was loved and had the opportunity to paint constantly. And Stiglitz photographed her like a man possessed. Over the twenty years of their relationship, he has made more than three hundred portraits of O'Keeffe. In addition, he maniacally documented every part of her body and face, especially admired the hands of his beloved, for the sake of which he neglected the bourgeois well-being, broke the established ties. He introduced Georgia to the circle of his friends, modernist photographers, introduced to the work of Braque, Duchamp, Picasso, Matisse.

The last straw that overwhelmed the patience of Stiglitz's wife was his exhibition of photographs in 1921, in which the public saw portraits of nude Georgia. Of course, such a trick of Alfred led to a divorce. In 1924, finally becoming a free man, the photographer offered his beloved his hand and heart.

Landscape. / Flowers. Posted by Georgia O'Keeffe

During the same period, O'Keeffe first began to paint her huge flowers from nature, enlarging them hundreds of times to convey her admiration for the indestructible power of nature hidden in a small and short-lived plant. For her paintings, O'Keeffe most often chose very delicate and textured flowers: calla lilies, irises, poppies, dope and petunias. Georgia created her unique painting, and her husband took over the organization of exhibitions and the sale of paintings. In 1928, he sold six of her paintings with calla lilies for a fantastic amount for that time - 25 thousand dollars.

This inspired and at the same time depressed the artist. For the love of Alfred, O'Keeffe gave up the idea of ​​becoming a mother, because Stiglitz told her that her main purpose was to write. Until the end of his days, he remained her most devoted fan. Although he secretly always envied her fame.

Painting from Georgia O'Keeffe

It is also impossible to say that the love relationship between the couple was harmonious, because they often reached a dead end. After several years of exhausting marriage, Stiglitz could not stand it and left D. O'Keeffe for the sake of his 22-year-old student Dorothy Norman, who simply silently adored him. This breakup was a serious blow to Georgia, and she began to find solace in constant travel and in other men.

Time passed, the artist and the photographer reconciled after mutual betrayal and became close again, despite the fact that Alfred was an incorrigible womanizer who preferred young women. And so it was until Stiglitz's death in 1946. Some unknown force held them together. And when he was gone, the woman moved to a ranch in New Mexico to stay there forever. It was there that she always went in search of inspiration and peace of mind when her husband was alive and they had discord.

Having abandoned civilization, the artist chose the virgin eternity of New Mexico. It is the works created under the blue sky of the desert that will become known to the whole world. She said:

Georgia O'Keeffe is old at her ranch

In the late 1960s, O'Keeffe's health deteriorated sharply, and by 1971 she had practically lost her sight. She had to stop writing completely. The woman began to engage in sculpture, in which she was assisted by the young potter Juan Hamilton, who in recent years has become her companion and closest friend. He was 53 years younger than the artist.

The artist died in 1986, just a little before her own century. She left behind more than two thousand paintings and drawings. - she said, -

P.S. Ida O'Keeffe is an artist who has fallen into the shadow of her famous sister

Alfred Stiglitz. Portrait of the O'Keeffe sisters (1924). / Ida O'Keeffe is an artist who has fallen into the shadow of her famous sister

Georgia was only two years older than Ida, but their characters were completely polarized. The older one purposefully built her career, studying at art universities; the smaller one relied on the knowledge gained in drawing lessons. Unlike her sister, Ida was slow and indecisive. She literally tossed between medicine and painting, - said Alfred Stiglitz, who tried to dodge the smaller sister. Ida never had such qualities. Nevertheless, she was able to emerge from the shadow of her sister, and the personal exhibition of her work in 1933 was a confirmation of this.

Ida O'Keeffe, Fish (1933) Ida O'Keeffe, Variation on the Theme of Lighthouses II (1931-32) / Variation on the Theme of Lighthouses IV (1931-32)

In the world of art, women have almost always been in secondary roles, but among them there were those who decided to declare themselves openly to the world. Read about this in our publication: The story of a grandiose scandal with "big eyes", or one of the greatest scams in the art of the 20th century.

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