Numerous paintings by Georgia O'Keeffe hang at the Milwaukee Art Museum which is not surprising as they are to be found in museums all around the world. Wisconsin, though, is her birthplace. Georgia O'Keeffe was born on a wheat farm just outside of Sun Prairie. She attended Town Hall School in Sun Prairie and by the age of ten was declaiming herself to be an artist. As for high school, she was sent first as a boarder to Sacred Heart Academy in nearby Madison. When her family moved to Virginia in 1902, Georgia O'Keeffe stayed behind to live with an aunt and continued for a time at a Madison public high school. She eventually followed her family east, but returned to the Midwest to study at the Art Institute of Chicago from 1905 to 1906. In 1907, she recovered from typhoid fever and then attended the Art Students League in New York from 1907 through 1908. Her piece Untitled (Dead Rabbit with Copper Pot) won the League's William Merritt Chase still-life prize in 1908.
While in New York she attended an exhibit in New York City at the gallery, 291, owned by Alfred Stieglitz, the photographer she would later marry after meeting again many years later. Georgia O'Keefe actually stopped painting for years because she felt constrained by the traditions that she had up to then been taught. Attending various other art colleges, she finally began to encounter art innovators. After marrying Stieglitz, O'Keeffe came to know the many early American modernists known as the Stieglitz's Circle artists. O'Keeffe, like so many others, became sick during the 1918 flu epidemic and nearly died. She survived, thrived, and eventually became known as the Mother of American Modernism. She was a woman in what was for a long time a man's world. Just a hundred years ago women were barely allowed into the best art schools, could not look at the nude models often used in the study of art, and were not included at social gatherings where heady subjects such as art were discussed by men. Then came O'Keeffe and other women whose talents could not be squelched nor denied. Like Mary Cassatt, she raised the awareness of the American public to the fact that a woman could be the equal or better of any man in any chosen field- art or any other.
O'Keeffe created imagery that expressed what she called "the wideness and wonder of the world as I live in it." She "...found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn't say in any other way- things I had no words for." For seven decades before her death, Georgia O'Keeffe was a major figure in American art. Remarkably, she remained independent from art trends, staying true to her own vision- finding the essential in abstract forms in nature. Perhaps a statement she made can best describe her quixotic quest to be who she was, and do what she did: "I've been absolutely terrified every moment of my life - and I've never let it keep me from doing a single thing I wanted to do."
Kathleen @ Central