Are you a fan of American art and are looking for information on the life of the American artist Georgia O’Keeffe. If you are, then read on to know more about her here.

Georgia O'Keeffe Biography

Born On: November 15, 1887
Born In: Sun Prairie, Wisconsin
Died On: March 6, 1986
Career: Artist
Nationality: American

Georgia O'Keeffe was one of America’s most compelling artists who used her canvas to present her view of the beauty that she saw in the landscape of America. Apart from the landscapes, she is also known for her paintings of rocks, animal bones, flowers and shells. Her paintings were known to portray the power and emotions of nature and are famed for having revolutionized modern art in her days. Her paintings are still known to hold a lot of sway on the artists of today. There are not many who can change the direction of the river, but Georgia O'Keeffe’s work did just that. She was responsible for taking the influence of American art to Europe, instead of the other way round. Her style of painting was well known for blending abstraction and pictorialism to produce abstract imagery. That she was able to achieve such a feat itself is testament to the devotion and skill that Georgia O'Keeffe brought to bear on her, while she painted.

Georgia O'Keeffe was born to Francis Coalyxtus O'Keeffe and Ida Totto O'Keeffe in 1887. Francis Calyxtus O'Keeffe and Ida Totto had seven children of whom Georgia O'Keeffe was the second eldest and the eldest girl. Her father, FrancisCalyxtus O'Keeffe,was an Irishman by descent and worked as a dairy farmer in America. Her mother Ida Totto was the daughter of the Hungarian count George Totto and it was after him that Georgia was named. Count George Victor Totto was married to Isabella Wyckoff Totto and had migrated to America in the mid 1850’s.  When Georgia was just a teenager, she moved to Williamsburg in Virginia, along with her family. 

Early Life
As children, Georgia O'Keeffe, and her sister were all enrolled in an art school. When her parents discovered how well she was doing, they decided to let her pursue an education in art. She also attended the Chatham Episcopal Institute in Williamsburg, Virginia and managed to distinguish herself in the schools art program. In 1905, after graduating, she moved to study at the Art Institute of Chicago in Illinois. After finishing her education, she moved to New York for some time, where she spent time in the growing community of fellow abstract expressionists. She also joined the Art Students League and studied under William Merritt Chase. However, unsatisfied with her work she left the world of fine art for some time and worked as a commercial artist in Chicago and subsequently moved to Texas. She then picked up a course in teaching at the Teachers College of Columbia University in South Carolina. It was also at this time that she started painting again. While teaching in South Carolina, she met Arthur Dow who was instrumental in helping her develop her own style. It was after this that she returned to Texas and produced some paintings that she sent to her friend, Anna Pollitzer, in New York. Her friend showed them to Alfred Stieglitz, who was a photographer and owned the gallery 291. He liked the paintings so much that he immediately agreed to put them on display without Georgia’s knowledge. The confrontation that resulted was the first time she actually met Alfred Stieglitz. The confrontation would later lead to a marriage in 1924.  In 1929 she travelled to New Mexico for the first time. She, and the friend she was travelling with, stayed at the ranch that belonged to Mabel Dodge Luhan. It was located just outside Taos and it was from here that Georgia made several trips to explore the area. It was a similar trip to the D. H. Lawrence Ranch that was the source of the inspiration for her painting ‘The Lawrence Tree’. 

Personal Life
Georgia O'Keeffe was married only once and that was to Alfred Stieglitz. They got married in 1924 and stayed so till his death in 1946. During their time together, Alfred used to take lots of photographs of Georgia. Many of these were also taken in the nude and somehow managed to make it to and exhibition and caused a scandal because by then Georgia O'Keeffe was a well known artist. Just a few short years after getting married Alfred Stieglitz fell for yet another younger girl and the relationship between the two grew strained. Even though Alfred Stieglitz was not faithful to her, Georgia was right next to him when he died in 1946.

As Georgia grew older, her health started to weaken and the first sign of age catching up with her was that her eyesight started to diminish. As she entered her 90’s she became increasingly frail and moved to Santa Fe where she continued to paint till a few weeks before her death on 6 March 1986. She was 98 years old when she died! As per her wishes, she was cremated the next day and her ashes were thrown to the wind from on top of Pedernal Mountain by Juan Hamilton.

The legacy left behind by Georgia O’Keeffe is just as colorful as her life was. Even after her death, she continued to influence the world of art. Examples of this were sighted by art critic Ann Landi who pointed out similarities in the works of artists like Hatton, Dove, and Gauguin. In the year 1991 the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) showed their production “A Marriage: Georgia O'Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz,” which had Jane Alexander staring as Georgia O’Keeffe. In 2009 Lifetime Television followed suit and produced a biopic of Georgia O'Keeffe. It premiered on 19th September, 2009 and had Joan Allen staring as Georgia O’Keeffe in it.

In 1998 The Georgia O'Keeffe Home and Studio was even declared a ‘national historic landmark’. Her numerous paintings of the badlands at Ghost Ranch and the interest that she showed in the ‘Coelophysis’ earned her the honor of having a species of crocodile, that was previously unknown, named after her!


1887: Georgia O'Keeffe was born to Francis Calyxtus O’Keeffe and Ida Totto O’Keeffe.
1905: Georgia went to attend The Art Institute of Chicago.
1907: Attends Art Students League.
1908: Wins the League’s 1907-1908 Still Life Scholarship.
1912: Went to the University of Virginia to attend drawing classes.
1914: Enrolled at the Teachers College in Columbia University.
1916: Georgia's paintings are first put on display in Alfred Stieglitz’s gallery, 291, without her knowledge.
1917: She has her first exhibition title “Georgia O’Keeffe” at the gallery 291.
1924: Alfred Stieglitz opens the new exhibition “Alfred Stieglitz Presents Fifty-One Recent Pictures: Oils, Water-colors, Pastels, Drawings, by Georgia O’Keeffe, American”. In December, that year Georgia marries Alfred Stieglitz.
1925 – 1946: Georgia has numerous exhibitions of her paintings put up by her husband in his art gallery.
1946: After the death of her husband she employs Edith Halpert as her agent. Edith Halpert is the owner of The Downtown Gallery.
1947: Georgia moves to Ney York to settle all of her late husband’s estates.
1949: Georgia moves back to New Mexico.
1960: Georgia, along with Bry, helps Daniel Catton Rich set up the exhibition “Georgia O’Keeffe: Forty Years of Her Art,” for the Worcester Art Museum.
1966: Georgia visits the Amon Carter Museum of Western Art in Fort Worth, Texas to attend the opening of the exhibition “Georgia O’Keeffe: An Exhibition of the Work of the Artist from 1915 to 1966”.
1971: Georgia loses her central vision and is left with only peripheral vision.
1972: Georgia paints her last unassisted painting.
1974: Georgia receives New Mexico’s First Annual Governor’s Award.
1984: Georgia moves to Santa Fe with her close friend Juan Hamilton to be close to medical facilities.
1986: A revolutionary of the American artist breathes her last.

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