Georgia O'Keeffe (Critical Lives)
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In this book, Nancy J. Scott draws on extensive sources—including many of O’Keeffe’s letters—to offer a sensitive and incisive examination of her groundbreaking works, their evolution, and how their reception has been caught in conflicts between O’Keeffe’s inner self and public persona. Following the young artist as her path-breaking, abstract charcoal landscapes caught the attention of gallery impresario Stieglitz, Scott tells the story of their partnership, of Stieglitz’s nudes, and the development of O’Keeffe’s early reputation as a sexually inspired, Freudian-minded artist. Scott explores the independent expression that O’Keeffe forged in opposition to the interpretations of her abstract work and the hybrid space that O’Keeffe’s works came to inhabit. Ultimately, she blended the abstract with the real in interpretations of flowers, bones, shells, rocks, and landscapes, which would become her hallmark subjects.
Unique to this biography is the inclusion of her letters—which have only recently been made available. They show that her words can be just as revelatory as her paintings, and they offer the intimate voice of an artist alive in an era of great artistic development. The result is a succinct yet comprehensive account of one of the most prolific and important artists of the twentieth century.
across America and has extended to Hawaii, Japan and Europe in travelling exhibitions over the past two decades. An auction sale of November 2014, which set a new high for a woman artist when her painting Jimson Weed (1932) fetched over $44 million with buyer’s premium, anchored the artist’s continuing star power. Through the release in 2006 of the extensive O’Keeffe–Stieglitz correspondence stored at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library in the Yale Collection of American Literature,
trips away, O’Keeffe read them all; often she wrote back immediately, sending a night letter, or overslept, since ‘your letters put me in such a daze’.37 Her letters gave daily accounts of her adventures, posted from ‘any crazy little place’ when she travelled to Mesa Verde, in late June, or on briefer camping trips. But O’Keeffe assured the increasingly frantic Stieglitz: ‘I have not missed writing for more than a day’,38 by which she tried to smooth over their erratic arrival. The lack of a
inclusion, O’Keeffe represented all women artists, and her turn to realist subjects in the 1920s now became linked to her American profile. O’Keeffe’s five works included her flowers, but also one of her most abstractly conceived nature paintings, Grey Tree, Lake George (1925). The choice bridged her worlds and showed an interest in the integrated spatial planes of French modernism. Edward Hopper’s quiet, melancholy American landscapes reached a broad public, and marked the tenor of the changing
abounded. O’Keeffe’s house, 3 miles distant from the Ghost Ranch conference centre, enabled her to remain remote from the German and Italian atomic scientists who were given security passes for weekends, if she chose. But the Packs, still the owners of the dude ranch, now had security clearance, and the word buzzed that secret government operations were involved.51 The year 1943 became a difficult one for rationing, both for petrol needed to obtain materials and the scarcity of food. The ranch
‘Painting Big: O’Keeffe’s Manhattan’, American Art, XX/2 (Summer 2006), pp. 22–5. 23 H. McBride, ‘Opening Exhibition of Murals at Museum of Modern Art’, New York Sun (7 May 1932). D. Grafly, ‘Murals at the Museum of Modern Art’, American Magazine of Art, XXV/2 (August 1932), p. 93. 24 A. Berman, Rebels on Eighth Street: Juliana Force and the Whitney Museum of American Art (New York, 1990), pp. 303–4. Stieglitz’s letter, in the Whitney Archives, details strict payment terms between 1 July 1932