Georgia O’Keeffe is considered the mother of American Modernism. Unlike many of her contemporaries, she was not inspired by European artists and didn’t travel to the continent until later in life. O’Keeffe separated herself from international art trends of her time, including Cubism. Instead, she was inspired by American artists such as Arthur Wesley Dow, one of her teachers, and Arthur Dove, considered to be America’s first abstract artist. She and Dove both investigated landscape as imagination. Photographer and gallerist Alfred Stieglitz who later became O’Keeffe’s husband, introduced the two.
O’Keeffe was born November 15, 1887, on a farm near Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, the second of seven children. Her parents were dairy farmers of Irish and Hungarian descent. In late 1902, the O’Keeffe family moved from Wisconsin to Williamsburg, Virginia. O’Keeffe stayed in Wisconsin with her aunt for a few years and then joined her family in Virginia in 1903. O’Keeffe attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago after high school and the Art Students League of New York after moving to that city, the center of American art at the time. Unable to support herself through her painting, she began working as a commercial illustrator in 1908. She did this for two years and then taught art at colleges in Virginia, Texas, and South Carolina between 1911 and 1918.
In 1917, Alfred Stieglitz, an art dealer and photographer in New York City, held an exhibit of her work. A year later, she moved to New York at his request, he provided a studio and they almost immediately started living together., the artists had fallen in love. They married in 1924 and would live in New York City during the winter and summer in Lake George, New York, where Stieglitz’s family had a home.
In the 1930s she started spending time in New Mexico, needing time away from Stieglitz and his family to create her art. They remained married even while living apart, until Stieglitz’s death in 1946. She moved to New Mexico full-time In 1949 and died in Santa Fe in 1986 at age 98.