By: Jim Lane
Calla Lillies on Pink, Georgia O'Keefe, 1928,
oil on canvas, Philadelphia Museum of Art
(Click on picture for larger image
see Summer Days,
In 1912, a 25-year-old Wisconsin farm girl, fresh out of the Art Institute of Chicago, heading off to west Texas to teach art in the public schools, would seem to be an unlikely candidate to become one of the key figures in 20th-century American art. An accomplished artist since the age of 17, it was in the hard-scrabble west that she began to develop a distinctive style that would make her the most celebrated female artist in this century, perhaps in all of American art. Her style of teaching raised eyebrows from time to time. She once installed a horse atop a table in her classroom for the students to draw.
Just before WW I she went to New York to attend Columbia Teachers College. While studying at the Art Student's League, a fellow student asked her to pose for him. She refused. Annoyed, he commented, "I'm going to be a great painter and you'll probably end up teaching painting at some girls' school." Actually the reverse ended up being the case. Around the same time, a female friend from the class showed some of her work to an art gallery owner specializing in unconventional artists. He was impressed and included some of her paintings in an exhibit. She was outraged, but soon they became friends. Later, he organized her first one-person show in 1917 and in 1924 they were married. She was 37, he was 60. Her name was Georgia O'Keefe, his, Alfred Stieglitz.
It was through Stieglitz's 291 Gallery that Georgia O'Keefe was first exposed to modernism. During the 1920s, her work veered closer to abstraction than any other artist painting in America. In 1929, she returned to the Southwest where she began spending summers in New Mexico. Winters were spent in New York, where she brought to the big city Southwestern images painted on an immense scale. Her 1928 painting, Calla Lillies on Pink is typical of her work from this period in her career. As her work developed, her hot New Mexico landscapes and animal sculls, such as in Summer Days, painted in 1936, began to abstract into an iconography that brought her fame both in New York and New Mexico. Having a top New York gallery owner/husband to promote her work didn't hurt either.
Alfred Stieglitz died in 1946. After that, Georgia O'Keefe chose Taos, New Mexico, as her permanent home, gravitating to the "back to nature" philosophy long before it became a 1970s fad. With the advent of the women's movement also in the 70's, O'Keefe's work was recognized for it's latent sexual content though she never acknowledged such elements in her paintings of massive, increasingly abstract open blossoms. She always explained that she painted flowers because she didn't have to pay them to pose for her. Though she flirted with abstraction quite often, even her most non-representational work always remained grounded in some reference to reality. Her juxtaposition of positive and negative spaces was a recurring theme in much of the painting done late in her life. Working well into her eighties, before failing eyesight forced her to stop painting, she aspired to passing the century mark. She died in 1986. She was 98.
is fifty-ish, balding, bearded, bespectacled, professorial, outgoing, knowledgable about a lot of things, expert on a very few. He grew up in the small town of Stockport, situated on the Muskingum River in Southeastern Ohio. He graduated from a un-noteworthy business college in Cincinnati, from the U.S. Air Force, and from Ohio University where he also obtained a masters degree and wracked up several hours of post-graduate work as well. For most of his professional life he's run a portrait business out of his home, specializing in sports portraits done in pencil and colored pencil.
Happily married for almost 30 years, Jim taught elementary and high school art for 26 years and also spent many enjoyable hours in the front of a local community college classroom. Recently he has retired from teaching in favor of painting, traveling, writing, designing web pages, and "...doing things I've never done before."
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