Georgia O’Keeffe‘s journey to recognition surpassed all stereotypes both as a female artist and in the contemporary style that characterized her work. O’Keeffe’s strong, modernist style covers a colorful part, which includes an overview of her work, such as large-scale florals, animal bones, sceneries, and skylines. 

The artist sought refuge as her fame grew, bringing with it more media attention and pressure to deliver time and time again. Her artwork began to command outrageous prices at auction, and the increased notoriety pushed her to relocate to New Mexico. The brilliant vistas of this region would inspire a strand of work in her career, just as Catalonia had done for Salvador Dali and Joan Miro. Flowers would remain a recurring subject for her, even when she was more focused on other sources of inspiration, such as architecture and the great outdoors. The most notable artworks from her remarkable and diverse career are examined here.

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Georgia O’Keeffe_©www.wikipedia.com

1. Jimson Weed, White Flower No. 1(1932)

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Jimson Weed, White Flower No. 1,1932_©www.wikipedia.com

This is one of Georgia O’Keeffe’s spectacular flower paintings, with four huge jimson weed flowers in the form of a pinwheel. Simplified hues combined with a rhythmic interplay of light and shadow emphasize the flowers’ freshness. Despite their poisonous seeds, Keeffe had an undying love for these blossoms. However, Elizabeth Arden, a beauty mogul, commissioned this artwork and advocated hanging it in the fitness room of her newest salon to inspire and improve her clients’ energy. This artwork was auctioned off by the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum for $44,405,000, breaking the record for the most price paid for an O’Keeffe piece while also becoming the world’s most costly painting by a female.

2. Oriental Poppies (1928)

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Oriental Poppies, 1928_©www.wikipedia.com

Also known as “Red Poppies”, on the very day of its release, it was recognized as a groundbreaking art masterpiece. O’Keeffe utilized her usual style of enlarging the blossom to allow the spectator to enjoy the flora’s beauty in all of its features in a way a person has never done prior. The large flowers with brilliant hues are portrayed in a way that they appear to burst on canvas, adding a sensuous touch to them. The lack of background forces viewers to focus their attention squarely on the center of the blossoms.

3. Ram’s Head White Hollyhock and Little Hills (1935)

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Ram’s Head White Hollyhock and Little Hills ,1935_©www.wikipedia.com

O’Keeffe traveled to Taos, New Mexico, with a friend in 1929. She could view the Taos Mountains from her window, which she ended up exploring on treks that summer, along with the dunes in the area.The artist went to New Mexico practically every year after that, gathering desert mementos like pebbles and bones to add to her paintings, as she did in the above Ram’s Head White Hollyhock and Little Hills. This picture is regarded as significant in the evolution of O’Keeffe’s creative career since it portrays a zoomed-in ram’s skull and a hollyhock flower positioned metaphorically in front of a landscape and sky. The fusion of the skeleton, floral, and landscape pictures rekindled interest in her work.

4. Blue and Green Music (1921)

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Blue and Green Music_©The Art Institute of Chicago

Around 1920, Georgia O’Keeffe produced a series of oils that she subsequently described as “an idea that music could be turned into something for the eye,” this visually appealing work employs a flurry of colors and patterns to mimic the feeling of listening to a masterpiece. It is still a source of inspiration for musicians as well as painters.

5. Sky Above Clouds IV (1965)

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Sky Above Clouds IV_©The Art Institute of Chicago

This piece is part of Keeffe’s series of cloudscape paintings, which she created in the second half of the 1960s. It was inspired by what she observed outside her window while flying. Enamored by the beauty of the moving clouds, she paints white, fluffy clouds that look like a blanket against a blue sky on canvas. The portrayal of the clouds expanding to infinity reveals a mystical aspect of the picture. Sky Above Clouds IV is the series’ most elaborate piece, and it has been likened to Claude Monet’s iconic waterlily paintings.

6. Summer Days (1936)

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Summer Days_© Georgia O’Keeffe Museum / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Summer Days, one of her most well-known pieces, depicts a deer skeleton and various Southwestern flowers on top of a bleak desert scene. Georgia O’Keeffe regularly used bones against a landscape in her paintings, and this is regarded as her most dazzling. The immense scale of the bones and blooms, as well as their location in the sky, provide a surreal sense to the picture. The animal skull and brilliant flowers were emblems of the natural world’s cycles of life and death for O’Keeffe. This painting is part of a series in which the artist depicts the sun-bleached bones she brought back from her summer sojourns in New Mexico. The deer, horse, mule, and ox skulls she gathered like wildflowers became powerful mementos of an environment that had greatly inspired her. 

7. Radiator Building — Night, New York (1927)

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Radiator Building — Night, New York (1927)_©www.wikipedia.com

The Radiator Building is Georgia O’Keeffe’s most ambitious statement in New York City. She illustrated a building in Midtown Manhattan that was lighted from within and without by various electric lights. On the surface of the artwork, round street lamps and luminous rectangular windows make an abstract pattern, while a diagonal beam from a spotlight provides movement. O’Keeffe’s low point of view and the building’s center placement conveys a sense of awe, reflecting the skyscraper’s significance as a symbol of modern America in the 1920s.

8. Cow’s Skull: Red, White, and Blue (1931)

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Cow’s Skull: Red, White, and Blue,1931_©www.metmuseum.org

At the time this iconic picture was made, numerous American artists in a variety of areas were making works based on American topics, sculpting a distinctly American identity for them. O’Keeffe displays a cow skull in the centre of the artwork with the three colours of the American flag behind it, rather than the common ideals of America at the time. Since then, the image has become a symbol of the American West. The withering cow’s skull further emphasises the existence of a Christian motif representing Christ crucified on the cross.

9. Red Canna (1924)

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Red Canna_©www.wikipedia.com

O’Keeffe painted flowers like never before, and her paintings are still in high demand. One of her most well-known flower paintings is one of the red canna blossoms. O’Keeffe brilliantly uses rich and bright colors in it to attract the observer. A significantly expanded piece of the flower fills the 36-inch canvas.

10. Black Iris III (1926)

Black Iris III,1926_©www.georgiaokeeffe.org

Georgia O’Keeffe is well known for her stunning big, sensuous close-ups of flowers as though viewed through a magnifying lens. Some of them are thought to be disguised representations of female flesh, most notably her classic renderings of irises; nevertheless, O’Keeffe said that she was simply painting what she saw. O’Keeffe’s most iconic representation of the flower is Black Iris III.

References:

  1. Associate Curator Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, 2013. Life and Artwork of Georgia O’Keeffe.

    Available at: <https://www.c-span.org/video/?310650-1/life-artwork-georgia-okeeffe> 

  2. En.wikipedia.org. n.d. Georgia O’Keeffe – Wikipedia. [online] Available at: <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georgia_O%27Keeffe> 
  3. Encyclopedia Britannica. n.d. Georgia O’Keeffe | Biography, Paintings, Art, Flowers, & Facts. [online] Available at: <https://www.britannica.com/biography/Georgia-OKeeffe> 
  4. Metmuseum.org. n.d. Cow’s Skull: Red, White, and Blue. [online] Available at: <https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/488694> 
  5. Metmuseum.org. n.d. Georgia O’Keeffe (1887–1986). [online] Available at: <https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/geok/hd_geok.htm> 
  6. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 2020. Episode 45. [podcast] Georgia O’Keeffe’s Deer’s Skull With Pedernal (1936). Available at: <http://www.thelonelypalette.com/episodes/2020/2/20/episode-45-georgia-okeeffes-deer-skull-with-pedernal-1936>
  7. The Georgia O’Keeffe Museum. n.d. The Georgia O’Keeffe Museum. [online] Available at: <https://www.okeeffemuseum.org/> 
Author

Arushi is an architect and interior designer who loves to travel and explore new places. She believes each place has its own story to tell. Her passion for history, culture and climate and how they all are related to architecture intrigues and motivates her to fulfil her goal to travel across the world.

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