Georgia O’Keeffe was born on November 15, 1887, in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin. She is best known for fantastic paintings of flowers and landscapes of the Southwest. As a child, Georgia was quiet and independent. She was one of six children in the O’Keeffe family. Georgia was fascinated with nature and all of its colors and beauty. By the time she was in eighth grade she knew she wanted to be an artist. So, at age 12, she began taking her first art lessons.
At the age of 15, Georgia and her family moved to Williamsburg, Virginia. Georgia then enrolled at Chatham Episcopal Institute, a boarding school. She was well liked in her new school. Her friends loved her for her practical jokes and because she used to draw silly cartoons of their teachers. She also served as the art editor of her school yearbook and studied art under an amazing art teacher, Mrs. Willis. After receiving her high school diploma, Georgia’s parents agreed to allow her to study painting at the Art Institute of Chicago. However, in 1906, Georgia became very sick. She was forced to take a break from her studies and rest at home for a year. When she was finally feeling better, Georgia got back to what she loved to do: painting. She started classes at the Art Students League in New York City. At this time, Georgia studied other artists and visited galleries where she learned new techniques in art. Although Georgia learned a lot from her fellow artists, she felt very frustrated because she was not able to express her own style. Even worse, women were not considered artists in this era. The only way a woman could make a living as an artist was to be an art teacher.
For the next few years, Georgia continued studying other artists, teaching art classes, and creating her own art. She had always wanted to travel to the western part of the United States. Luckily, when a friend of hers told her there was a job out west as a teacher, she jumped at the opportunity. As a teacher in Amarillo, Texas, she encouraged her students to use their creativity and to appreciate the beauty around them. Students were inspired by her passion for art and nature. Georgia had a hard time convincing her bosses that art should come from within and not from copying others. However, she remained strong and they finally agreed that her students could follow her new methods of studying art.
In 1915, she began teaching at Columbia College in South Carolina. It was here that she began creating charcoal drawings based on her feelings, and when she showed a famous art gallery owner her work, he immediately accepted to show it in his gallery. In the fall of 1916, Georgia once again moved west to teach in Canyon, Texas. Georgia concentrated on her artwork by painting watercolors of the desert sky. These inspiring paintings were displayed at her first solo exhibition at Studio 291 in 1917. Her time in Texas was cut short when she contracted the flu and was forced to return home to recover.
In New York, Georgia’s boyfriend and gallery owner convinced her to sell her artwork at his studio. In 1923, she had her first major art exhibition. More than 500 people came to see her work on the first day. Her first exhibit featured 100 watercolors, charcoals, drawings, and oil paintings. The people of the art world were impressed. Finally Georgia O’Keeffe had become well respected as a woman artist and not just an art teacher.
In 1924, Georgia began painting her most famous paintings of large, colorful flowers. She sold these paintings for very high prices, and people were willing to pay for her amazing talent to bring the flowers alive on the canvas. Georgia spent the remainder of her life traveling the west and back to New York. She created many beautiful paintings of the western environment and New York City.
|Note: Very few of O’ Keeffe’s works or images of her works are in the public domain, making it difficult to post examples
Georgia died on March 6, 1986. She was 99 years old. She will forever be known for her creative artwork and for her ability to inspire others to appreciate nature.
“When you take a flower in your hand and really look at it, it’s your world for the moment. I want to give that world to someone else.”