In conjunction with its year-long exploratory theme of reimagining feminism, the Brooklyn Museum is opening a new Georgia O'Keeffe exhibit on March 3rd called Georgia O'Keeffe: Living Modern. The exhibit celebrates the famous painter's identity as a female artist through her paintings, minimalist wardrobe, and independent lifestyle.
As a precursor to the exhibit and in honor of O'Keeffe's artistic legacy, here are five interesting facts about the famous painter.
She's known as the Mother of American Modernism.
O'Keeffe's affiliation and eventual marriage to photographer and modern art promoter Alfred Stieglitz opened many doors for her. She became part of what was known as the Stieglitz Circle, a group of early modernists such as Arthur Dove, Charles Demuth, John Marin, and Marsden Hartley. Her pioneering ways of painting nature in unique shapes boosted her reputation as an artist, and by the 1920s, she became the first female painter among her many male cohorts to be recognized in New York's art world.
O'Keeffe's 'Jimson Weed/White Flower No.1' recently broke a record.
O'Keeffe is famous for her flower paintings, and recently one of those paintings made record-breaking history. In 2014 O'Keeffe's Jimson Weed/White Flower No.1 sold for 44.4 million dollars at Sotheby's, making it the most expensive painting sold by a female artist.
An interesting fact to note is that O'Keeffe admittedly hated flowers, but she painted them because they were less expensive than hiring models.
O'Keeffe dismissed notions that her floral depictions were sexual.
Despite all of the Freudian associative theories about flowers and female genitalia and feminist interpretations of O'Keeffe's floral paintings as symbols of empowerment, the artist insisted she meant nothing sexual with her renderings.
“Well—I made you take time to look at what I saw and when you took time to really notice my flowers you hung all your own associations with flowers on my flower and you write about my flower as if I think and see what you think and see of the flower—and I don’t,” O'Keeffe said in 1943.
O'Keeffe couldn't stop painting a particular mountain in New Mexico.
One of O'Keeffe's favorite subjects to paint was a table mountain called the Cerro Pedernal, which she could see from her front door in New Mexico. She depicted it in 28 of her paintings and admired it so much that she requested her ashes be scattered on top of it.
When O'Keeffe became blind, she continued making art — just in a different way.
In the 1970s, O'Keeffe lost most of her vision due to macular degeneration. When she became virtually blind, she was unable to paint, but still, she desired to create. "I can see what I want to paint. The thing that makes you want to create is still there,” she said. Starting in her late 80s, O'Keeffe began clay sculpting and continued experimenting with it to the age of 96, two years before her death.