MissArtemiss Muse: Georgia O'Keeffe

"I paint because color is significant"

Georgia O'Keeffe.


This month’s MissArtemiss Muse, Georgia O’Keeffe, inspires us to explore the unknown and to pursue our passions with curiosity and confidence.

O’Keeffe, known as the “Mother of American Modernism”, was born in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin in 1887. At only 10 years old she was determined to become an artist and she began her first formal studies in realism. A gardener at heart, Georgia painted flowers with precision; she examined her floral subjects, holding them in different ways, gaining varied perspectives, and narrowing her focus onto particular pieces of each blossom. However, this stale technique of research and realistically recreating subjects began to stifle Georgia's artistic development so she paused her schooling to work as a commercial artist and reserved art classes for summers only.

During these summer courses Georgia discovered the interpretive and liberating methods of artist Arthur Wesley Dow and became inspired to work with abstract compositions and developed her own distinct style, one that was far from her beginnings in realism. 

Georgia began to paint flowers with “no references to atmospheric effects or realistic details”, she started painting with feeling, “I paint because color is significant”, Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. In the mid-1920’s, O’Keeffe painted large-scale flowers, she filled canvases with colorful petals as she interpreted them. Her work with flowers encouraged viewers to take the time to truly see them and appreciate their blooms’ vibrant colors and unique shapes. This originality and her unique perspective gained Georgia O’Keeffe acceptance within the art community.

Because Georgia was an independent female painter whose work helped establish American modernism, many crowned her a feminist artist and imparted their own controversial interpretation of her depiction of flowers despite her ardent protests to all such claims. You see, as mentioned in Portrait of an Artist: A Biography of Georgia O'Keeffe, she explains her simple and modernist approach to each floral artwork, "I know I cannot paint a flower. I can not paint the sun on the desert on a bright summer morning but maybe in terms of paint color I can convey to you my experience of the flower or the experience that makes the flower of significance to me at that particular time". 

And in true the future is female style, Georgia emphatically rejected being labeled a “woman artist”.

She wanted to be remembered only as an “artist”.