In her life and art, Georgia O'Keeffe was a pioneer of American modernism. Born in Wisconsin, she began her art studies at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1905 at the age of eighteen. She moved to New York two years later to attend the Art Students League. She initially saw the work of European modernists in New York at Alfred Stieglitz' gallery 291. After working for a few years as a commercial artist in Chicago, in 1910 she went to Charlottesville, Virginia, where her family had moved, and took courses in drawing at the University of Virginia. For the next eight years O'Keeffe combined studies of art and art education with teaching art, traveling, and developing her own style.
In 1916 some of her drawings were shown to Alfred Stieglitz, who recognized her significant talent and exhibited a group of her spare charcoal abstractions at 291 the following year. Moving back to New York in 1918, O'Keeffe became a part of the group of progressive artists--Charles Demuth, Arthur Dove, John Marin, and Marsden Hartley--who had gathered around Stieglitz and his gallery. In 1924 O'Keeffe married Stieglitz, and she divided her time throughout the 1920s between New York City and the country home of the Stieglitz family at Lake George in upstate New York.
During her long career, O'Keeffe's subjects ranged from cityscapes to abstractions and figure studies, landscapes, and her well-known flower paintings. In 1929 she spent part of a summer in New Mexico for the first time, a habit she maintained until she moved there permanently in 1949, following the death of her husband three years earlier.
The American Southwest proved a particularly fertile source for many of O'Keeffe's works. Vast wide-open spaces provided direct experience with forms and the effects of nature she boldly recorded in her works. Her bold, simple, vivid images seem to suspend time by capturing a fleeting moment and rendering it in solid, monumental form.
[This is an excerpt from the interactive companion to the videodisc American Art from the National Gallery of Art.]