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What you should know about Wisconsin artist Georgia O'Keeffe

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According to a recent study by the online art gallery Singulart, Wisconsin-born Georgia O'Keeffe (1887-1986) is the artist most frequently exhibited in the art collections of American museums.

Here are answers to some questions readers may have about O'Keeffe, with a focus on her Wisconsin connections.

What is Georgia O'Keeffe best known for?

When they hear the name O'Keeffe (note the double f), many people immediately think of her flower paintings. That was one of the reasons for the spring exhibition “Abstracting Georgia O'Keeffe” at the Mitchell Park Domes, which honored the artist with a display of spring blossoms. While O'Keeffe often took her subjects from nature, her approach varied from abstract to representational over the course of her long artistic life.

Her works could also be gigantic. “Sky Above Clouds IV”, which she completed in 1965 at the age of 77, is 8 feet high and 24 feet wide. It is in the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago.

“Georgia O'Keeffe is widely regarded as a pioneer of modern American art. She is one of the most celebrated artists of the 20th century and – without question – one of the most significant artists born in Wisconsin,” Margaret Andera, senior curator of art at the Milwaukee Art Museum, wrote in an email.

As a young woman, O'Keeffe was also the subject of numerous photographic artworks by Alfred Stieglitz, a leading American photographic artist and gallery owner who became her husband.

Where was Georgia O'Keeffe born?

Georgia Totto O'Keeffe was born on November 15, 1887, on a farm near Sun Prairie in Dane County, Wisconsin. She was the second child and eldest daughter of Francis Calyxtus O'Keeffe and Ida Totto O'Keeffe.

Where did Georgia O'Keeffe grow up?

O'Keeffe attended Town Hall School in Sun Prairie. She and her sisters also took art lessons from a local watercolor artist. Her parents sent her to boarding school at Sacred Heart Academy in Madison in 1901. The following year, her family moved to Williamsburg, Virginia. O'Keeffe stayed in Wisconsin for a year, attending Madison Central High School, before joining them in Virginia in 1903.

Has Wisconsin influenced your art?

In his obituary and tribute to the artist, published the day after her death on March 6, 1986, Milwaukee Journal art critic James Auer reported that one of O'Keeffe's local art teachers had taught her to look closely at a statue of a monkey. “It was a lesson that led to a lifelong attention to the details of flowers,” Auer wrote, “a preoccupation that would transform within a decade into powerfully simplified images developed according to O'Keeffe's inner vision.”

Where did Georgia O'Keeffe study art?

From 1905 to 1906, O'Keeffe studied at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago before contracting typhus and interrupting her education. She later studied at the Art Students League in New York and at the University of Virginia.

Who did Georgia O'Keeffe marry?

Alfred Stieglitz (1864-1946) was a leading American photographer. As curator and impresario of the 291 Gallery in New York, he played a key role in the recognition and dissemination of modernist art in the United States.

A friend of O'Keeffe showed Stieglitz some of her artwork in 1916. Stieglitz showed them in the gallery without the artist's permission. She complained to Stieglitz, but he then persuaded her to move to New York and devote herself full-time to painting.

Stieglitz began making portraits of O'Keeffe. They fell in love. He divorced his wife and married O'Keeffe in 1924.

How many photographs did Stieglitz take of O'Keeffe?

The most common estimate is over 300, according to both the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the New York Times.

His ongoing portrayal of O'Keeffe through the photographs “was one of his main preoccupations between 1917 and 1925, during which time he took several hundred photographs of the painter (who became his wife in 1924),” wrote Lisa Hostetler, a former curator of the Milwaukee Art Museum, in an essay on the Met's website. “His refusal to capture her personality in a single image was consistent with several modernist ideas: the idea of ​​the fragmented sense of self induced by the rapid pace of modern life; the idea that a personality, like the outside world, is constantly changing and can be interrupted but not stopped by the intervention of the camera; and, finally, the recognition that truth in the modern world is relative and that photographs are as much an expression of the photographer's feelings for the subject as a reflection of the subject depicted.”

When did O'Keeffe move to New Mexico?

She first traveled to New Mexico in the summer of 1929. Inspired by the landscape and the Hispanic and indigenous culture of the region, she returned to paint most of the following summers. Three years after Stieglitz's death, O'Keeffe moved to New Mexico permanently in 1949.

When and where did Georgia O'Keeffe die?

She died on March 6, 1986 at the age of 98 in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Can I see Georgia O'Keeffe paintings at the Milwaukee Art Museum?

The Milwaukee Art Museum has 21 paintings and drawings by O'Keeffe in its collection.

Ten of these works are currently on view: “It Was Red and Pink” (1959), “Blue B” (1959), “Patio with Cloud” (1956), “Black Door with Snow II” (1955), “Poppies” (1950), “Pelvis I” (1944), “Grey and Brown Leaves” (1929), “Lake George Autumn” (1927), “Series I — No. 2” (1918); and “Series I — No. 3” (1918). They are on view in galleries K213 and K223 on the top floor of the art museum.

The MAM collection also includes six portraits of O'Keeffe by other artists, none of which are currently on display: three by Stieglitz and one each by the famous portrait photographers Yousuf Karsh, Philippe Halsman and Buck Miller.

Where is the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum?

The Georgia O'Keeffe Museum consists of two locations in New Mexico.

The Georgia O'Keeffe Museum Galleries, 217 Johnson St., Santa Fe, are curated galleries that display O'Keeffe's entire body of work. Current exhibitions include “Georgia O'Keeffe: Making a Life” (through Nov. 2, 2025) and “Rooted in Place” (through Aug. 1, 2024), which focus on O'Keeffe's engagement with trees in her art. The museum offers a free audio tour that visitors can listen to on their own devices.

The O'Keeffe Home & Studio in Abiquiú, about 50 miles north of Santa Fe, offers tours from March through November, and advance registration is required. All tours begin at the Welcome Center, 21120 US-84, located on the grounds of the Abiquiu Inn.

For more information about both spots, see okeeffemuseum.org.

How did the Singulart study determine O'Keeffe's popularity?

Singulart collected data from art museums in 29 of the 50 most populous American cities; each of the 29 cities had two or more art museums. Both paintings and sculptures were analyzed. Milwaukee was not one of the 29 cities. O'Keeffe was the only female artist in the top 25.

Only 13.2 percent of the works of art in the museums examined were created by a female artist, the study says.

Anna Harden

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