Georgia O’Keeffe (1887—1986) is one of the most significant painters of our time, a trailblazing figure in American modernism. Yet there are many assumptions surrounding O’Keeffe’s work and who she was as an individual. The Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) showcases over 80 works spanning six decades with Georgia O’Keeffe , providing a new perspective of the iconic artist when it opens on April 22, 2017 until July 30, 2017.
Did you know?
1.To this day, a common myth is that O’Keeffe’s flower paintings were actually close studies of female genitalia. Yet she consistently denied these interpretations over six decades. O’Keeffe stated, “I make them just to express myself—things I feel and want to say—haven’t words for.”
2.Though she is best known for her large-scale studies of flowers, these paintings make up just 10 per cent of her catalogue. The rest of her work mainly depicts landscapes, leaves, rocks, shells, skyscrapers and bones. She also painted abstracts at both the beginning and end of her career.
3.O’Keeffe’s depictions of flowers are now closely connected to her identity in the public eye, yet she has stated that she wasn’t really interested in flowers. Actually, she hated them — but painted them because they were cheaper than models and they didn’t move.
4.Her 1932 Jimson Weed/White Flower No. 1 painting broke records at Sotheby’s in 2014 becoming the most expensive painting sold at auction by a female artist, selling for $44.4 million (USD).
5.Her paintings are full of colour, but O’Keeffe chose to wear only black and white clothing. She once said that if she had to figure out what colour to wear each day it would be a waste of time.
6.Six of her calla lily paintings sold for $25,000 (USD) in 1928, which at the time was the largest amount ever paid for a group of paintings by a living American artist.
7.Her favourite place to paint was the backseat of a Model A Ford. The car allowed O’Keeffe to stay out of the sun and away from the bees in New Mexico, where she painted many of her later works.
8.O’Keeffe and her husband Alfred Stieglitz wrote 25,000 pages of love letters to each other. That’s as many as 40 pages at a time, as often as two or three times a day.
9.She has never signed her paintings, expecting people to recognize them.
10.In 1977, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honour in the United States for her achievements in art by President Gerald R. Ford. O’Keeffe remains the first and only female artist to receive this prestigious award. In 1985, she was also granted the prestigious National Medal of Arts by President Ronald Reagan.