Georgia O’Keeffe, a major figure of American art in the 20th century, is considered the “mother of American Modernism,” but never affiliated herself with any art movement; rather, she preferred to stay true to her own vision. Extremely prolific, she created over 2000 works – including but not limited to the paintings of enlarged flowers she is best known for.
Located in Santa Fe, where O’Keeffe spent her summers growing up as well as the final years of her life, the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum is the largest repository of her work the public has access to and one of the few museums in the United States dedicated to a woman artist. The permanent collection consists of a rotating selection of nearly 1200 objects by O’Keeffe, painted between 1901 and 1984. The museum also organizes exhibitions shedding new light on the artist’s work, such as 2013’s Modern Nature: Georgia O’Keeffe and Lake George or exploring her contemporaries’ and even living artists’ production. All these elements make it the definitive resource to discover or rediscover O’Keeffe’s life and works.
The second-largest art museum in the United States is home to 21 of Georgia O’Keeffe’s works from various periods of her life. The artist had a history with this museum: it held her first retrospective in 1943. That it does not own any of her famous flower paintings should not be seen as a disappointment, but as a chance for discovery: indeed, the collection includes lesser-known abstract paintings such as Blue and Green Music, a 1919-21 painting which explores, according to the artist herself, “The idea that music could be translated into something for the eye.” The Art Institute of Chicago, 111 S Michigan Avenue, Chicago, IL, +1 312-443-3600
Among the thousands of works which make up the National Gallery of Art’s collection—one of the world’s finest—are 28 paintings and drawings by Georgia O’Keeffe. The most notable of these are a series of paintings depicting an enlarged jack-in-the-pulpit, a North American wildflower. They were inspired by O’Keeffe’s discovery of such flowers near her summer home at Lake George, in upstate New York. The first painting shows the entire flower but with successive rendition it becomes bigger and more abstract, until only the stamen is visible. The fourth in the series, aptly named Jack-in-the-pulpit IV, particularly epitomizes O’Keeffe’s style, threading the fine line between figuration and abstraction. Unfortunately, O’Keeffe’s work in not always on display, so check with the museum beforehand.
Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland | Courtesy of Contessa Gallery
The Cleveland Museum of Art may be renowned for its Asian and Egyptian art but it also holds six paintings by O’Keeffe, all of which depict either enlarged flowers or desert landscapes. This makes a visit to this museum a good introduction to the artist’s work, as these two subjects are her most famous and reveal much of what she is recognized for. For example, one of the landscapes, It Was Yellow and Pink II. appears at first glance to be a highly abstract work representing something profoundly otherworldly but upon scrutiny shows a river, thus making us apprehend the world around us in a new way.
The oldest continually operating public art museum in the United States features The Lawrence Tree – a painting of a ponderosa pine tree in New Mexico viewed from the bottom and reaching up to the stars, as if the viewer were lying on the ground below it looking at the night sky. The effect is magical, making the Wadsworth a must-visit for anyone interested in O’Keeffe’s work – even though the museum only owns this one painting by the artist.