Well-known to many as the female artist who painted flowers suggestive of women’s anatomy, Plant Curator recently investigated the life and art of American artist Georgia O’Keeffe (1887 – 1986). ‘The first’ biography, Portrait of an Artist, was written by Laurie Lisle in 1986. It gives a detailed account of O’Keeffe’s childhood, education and journey to becoming a successful full-time artist. The story also focuses on her relationship with both nature, and the photographer and art promoter Alfred Stieglitz: The two biggest influences on her work and career. The biography emphasises O’Keeffe’s importance in bringing visibility to women artists in the early twentieth century American modernist art movement. The description Lisle presents of a woman forging her own way in a man’s world with an independent mind and spirit is a compelling read. The account however, includes none of her art, so breaking away from the book to Google paintings it references is an essential sideline activity.
Georgia O’Keeffe refuted any erotic interpretation of the shape or form of her artwork. In addition to flowers she was also known for trees, desert vegetation and landscapes. As was fitting of the modernist movement, she was not drawn to naturalistic representations of plants, believing that trying to replicate the beauty of nature in the style of traditional botanical art was pointless. So varying levels of abstraction and surrealism were applied to uniquely capture the essence of her subjects. What comes out in the book is how American her sensibility and her style was. She was totally influenced and informed by her landscape and life experience, with little direction from influential European art trends of the time. Her independence and experimentation make her a feminist icon. What she produced was a very beautiful and inspiring body of work that reflected the solace she found in nature, some of which can be seen below.