American artist Georgia O’Keeffe is widely referred to as the “Mother of American Modernism.” She painted oil canvasses that depict everything from flowers to skyscrapers to the landscape north of Santa Fe, New Mexico. The love she developed for the American Southwest created a genre of timeless and unique works.
What does O’Keefe have to do with Pakmail? First of all, we simply love art and everything the Santa Fe art world has to offer. But also because Pakmail is one of the largest art shippers in Santa Fe.
O’Keefe enjoyed art from an early age. She was influenced by her grandmothers and sisters, who were talented painters in their own right.
Born in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin on November 15, 1887, O’Keeffe started formal training as an artist in 1905. She attended the prestigious School of the Art Institution of Chicago and then moved on to the Arts Students League of Chicago. But because she felt formal classes did little to enhance her skills, she quit school and focused on working as a commercial illustrator. She also taught art classes to students around the country.
After O’Keeffe married photographer and art dealer Alfred Stieglitz, her career received a serious boost. Her works were seen at a number of early 20th Century exhibits. Over the years, her oil paintings continued to garner praise and publicity. She was introduced to a number of influential artists including John Marin, Paul Strand, and Arthur Dove, who was impressed by her vibrancy and eye for experimentation. Stieglitz notably took hundreds of nude pics of O’Keefe, which created a high level of public interest.
She had a few New York solo exhibitions that featured the skyscraper works City Night (1926) and Shelton Hotel, New York No. 1 (1926). In a profession dominated by men, she became one of the most successful artists in the United States. Considered a pioneer, she paved the way for other up and coming female artists.
It was in New Mexico where other inspirations began to take shape. It was there where she developed a love for abstract art. During this period she released some of her better-known works Black Iris (1926) and Oriental Poppies (1928).
Georgia O’Keeffe in Santa Fe found her footing. Inspired by the local Navajo people and the breathtaking landscapes, she created a number of iconic works that featured animal skulls: Black Cross, New Mexico (1929), Cow’s Skull: Red, White, and Blue (1931) and countless others. Not only did O’Keefe receive critical success, but her paintings also fetched a pretty penny. Many of her works sold for five-figure.
Of all the inspirational places O’Keeffe enjoyed during her time in New Mexico, she had a particular fondness for Ghost Ranch in Abiquiú. In fact, she ended up buying two homes there. Over the years, O’Keeffe spent her time collecting a number of rocks, bones, and other types of artifacts. Her exploration of the local mountain regions served as inspiration for the Lawrence Tree oil painting.
Along with longtime friend Rebecca Strand, O’Keeffe visited Taos, New Mexico. Fellow artist Mable Dodge Luhan provided her with a studio. During her time in Taos, she painted the San Francisco de Asis Mission Church at Ranchos de Taos. She also used a rather unique perspective with her paintings by capturing them partially silhouetted by the sky.
By the late 1930s, O’Keeffe was one of the most sought-after artists in the world. Her paintings caught the attention of the Hawaiian Pineapple Company (Today the Dole Foods Company). N.W. Ayer & Son, who managed advertisements for Hawaiian Pineapple commissioned her to create pineapple artwork for an upcoming campaign. After visiting Hawaii, she painted a 1939 oil canvass Pineapple Bud. This was seen as a shot in the arm for O’Keeffe’s career. Although her works received critical acclaim, some in the art world believed the constant New Mexico focus was making her artwork stale.
Additionally, O’Keeffe was commissioned by Elizabeth Arden to create a mural for a New York City exercise salon. She accepted another commission to paint a mural for Radio City Music Hall.
Stiglitz, 20 years her senior, supported her through her ups and downs. However, he began to have serious health problems in his later years. In 1946, he died of a stroke. A few years after the death of her husband, O’Keefe made the permanent move to New Mexico. While she continued to paint, she also traveled the globe seeking out new inspirations for her work. After the distinctive Ladder to the Moon painting (1958), she released several pieces of Cloudscape art inspired by the view from the clouds while in an airplane. In 1960, the Worcester Art Museum hosted the Georgia O’Keeffe: Forty Years of Her Art.
Throughout the 1960s, her works were exhibited at The Whitney Museum of American Art and the Worcester Art Museum. By 1972, O’Keeffe’s eyesight has greatly diminished due to macular degeneration. However, she was still able to paint a series of watercolors and release her autobiography. While a number of art aficionados labeled her works feminist, O’Keefe didn’t see it that way. She scoffed at being known as a “woman artist” and refused to join art organizations that were not all-inclusive.
O’keefe’s last works comprised of pencil and charcoal and were released in 1984. After her retirement, she was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1977 by Gerald Ford and was awarded the National Medal of Arts by Ronald Reagan in 1985. She also received honorary degrees from Bryn Mawr College and Harvard University.
O’Keeffe’s art, life, and legacy is the stuff of legends. She died in New Mexico in 1986 at the age of 98. Remembered as an independent spirit, O’Keeffe is considered a role model for artists. Her audacity and distinctive style unlocked doors and helped her receive acceptance in an industry that was male-dominated.
The Georgia O’Keeffe Museum was opened in Santa Fe in 1997. It holds a significant number of her works as well as her house and property. Thousands of her paintings are also on display in museums and galleries all over the world. Her home and studio were designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1998.
The U.S. Postal Service honored O’Keeffe with a 32-cent stamp in 1997.