Article by Jessie Ippersiel
Like any brilliant artist, Georgia O’Keefe’s imagination was sparked by a myriad of things. However, the O’Keeffe inspiration lay mainly in the natural landscapes surrounding her. The pieces she produced were most often related to her immediate environment and her personal life experiences. O’Keeffe’s forte was her use of perception. Many artists can paint a beautiful flower or a majestic mountain, but few can give it the realistic magnificence that O’Keeffe brought to her art. Her works reflect an intense observation and appreciation for nature. The color tones in her flower paintings are impeccably blended. Because she magnified her subjects, her paintings took on an abstract appearance.
Marriage and New York
The 1920’s were a significant time for Georgia O’Keeffe. Not only did she marry famous photographer Alfred Stieglitz, but she also produced her first large-scale flower painting titled ‘Petunia No. 2’. During this time, she was introduced to many of Stieglitz’s modernist painter friends; the likes of Arthur Dove, Charles DeMuth, and Paul Strand are artists who affected her work profoundly.
Stieglitz frequently took Georgia to his family home in Lake George in the Adirondack Mountains where she produced many paintings of the area’s countryside. She also took to architectural subjects, creating paintings of the New York skyscrapers that could be seen from her 30th floor balcony at the Shelton Hotel. Because O’Keeffe inspiration came basically from nature, it is interesting to speculate why she chose to paint the New York skyline. It could be argued that her painting ‘Radiator Building – Night'(1927) does have some seemingly natural elements. The smoke billowing on the right side of the painting resembles clouds, and the reddish stripe to the left is reminiscent of a fading sunset. Moreover, the building is reaching up toward the sky, as would a mountain. Perhaps for O’Keeffe, skyscrapers illustrated humanity’s attempt at creating nature, or its need to challenge it.
The Move to New Mexico
Toward the end of the 20’s, O’Keeffe began to tire of New York and took a trip to New Mexico. She fell in love with the terrain and returned there every year until she moved there permanently in 1946. It was a new beginning for Georgia O’Keeffe, whose inspiration abounded once again as she took to painting the mountainous landscape and sun-bleached animal skulls that littered the desert floor. She insists that the bones depicted in her work were not indicative of death, but rather of the ever-lasting beauty of the desert itself. She reveled in the striking vegetation and vibrant colors. Once again her paintings took on a magnified quality, possibly a significant message that nature is larger than humanity, and that its splendid beauty dwarfs us. Despite artists using nature as a subject, nature will always be too much for an artist to contain.
Jessie Ippersiel has been a fan of Georgia O’Keeffe’s
work for many years and provides content for Georgia-Okeeffe.com
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