November 15, 2011 - Happy Birthday, Georgia O'Keeffe

If you have ever seen a really large, really close-up painting of a flower, you may have seen a piece of artwork by Georgia O'Keeffe. Born on this day in 1887, in Wisconsin, O'Keeffe came to New York City's art scene at a time when women still had no access to training at universities, and there were no well-known women artists.

But in less than a decade, O'Keeffe had managed to make herself one of America's most important modern artists—of either sex!

Because she made such compelling artwork, and because she was a trailblazer for women artists, Georgia O'Keeffe became an important cultural icon.

Although O'Keeffe was born in Wisconsin, studied art at an art school in Chicago, worked as an art teacher in South Carolina and Texas, and gained fame in New York City, many of us associate O'Keeffe with New Mexico. She traveled to New Mexico every summer for years and eventually made it her permanent home. She often explored deserts and mountains and canyons, hiking or driving her Model A Ford. She purchased a place called Ghost Ranch, where she painted the nearby cliffs and cattle and other skulls she'd found.

O'Keeffe married a famous photographer, Alfred Stieglitz, whose gallery showing of O'Keeffe helped put her on the map. She lived to be 98 years old!

Up Close, and Closer

Georgia O'Keeffe is particularly famous for her large-scale, up-close portraits of flowers. Flower parts that aren't even three inches long have been expanded to fill a three-foot-long canvas! By magnifying flower shapes so much that we are zoomed in to flower centers, the familiar flower forms become unfamiliar abstract shapes.

O'Keeffe said, "I decided that if I could paint that flower in a huge scale, you could not ignore its beauty."

Check out the online images available at the O'Keeffe Museum. Then use them as inspiration as you paint your own up-close flower picture.

The images on art-dot-com are zoomable in several ways.  First, click on an image to see a larger version of it. You can move your mouse around the picture to see a closer-up image, or you can click “Zoom” to see the largest-scale image.

Here and here are some art lessons about Georgia O'Keeffe-styled pictures. 

To find out more about Georgia O'Keeffe, maybe you can find Georgia's Bones, or one of these other books, at a local library or bookstore. 

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