Georgia O'Keeffe quotes

Georgia O'Keeffe photo
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Georgia O'Keeffe

Birthdate: 15. November 1887
Date of death: 6. March 1986

Georgia Totto O'Keeffe was an American artist. She was best known for her paintings of enlarged flowers, New York skyscrapers, and New Mexico landscapes. O'Keeffe has been recognized as the "Mother of American modernism".In 1905, O'Keeffe began her serious formal art training at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and then the Art Students League of New York, but she felt constrained by her lessons that focused on recreating or copying what was in nature. In 1908, unable to fund further education, she worked for two years as a commercial illustrator, and then taught in Virginia, Texas, and South Carolina between 1911 and 1918. During that time, she studied art during the summers between 1912 and 1914 and was introduced to the principles and philosophies of Arthur Wesley Dow, who created works of art based upon personal style, design, and interpretation of subjects, rather than trying to copy or represent them. This caused a major change in the way she felt about and approached art, as seen in the beginning stages of her watercolors from her studies at the University of Virginia and more dramatically in the charcoal drawings that she produced in 1915 that led to total abstraction. Alfred Stieglitz, an art dealer and photographer, held an exhibit of her works in 1917. Over the next couple of years, she taught and continued her studies at the Teachers College, Columbia University in 1914 and 1915.

She moved to New York in 1918 at Stieglitz's request and began working seriously as an artist. They developed a professional relationship and a personal relationship that led to their marriage in 1924. O'Keeffe created many forms of abstract art, including close-ups of flowers, such as the Red Canna paintings, that many found to represent female genitalia, although O'Keeffe consistently denied that intention. The reputation of the portrayal of women's sexuality was also fueled by explicit and sensuous photographs that Stieglitz had taken and exhibited of O'Keeffe.

O'Keeffe and Stieglitz lived together in New York until 1929, when O'Keeffe began spending part of the year in the Southwest, which served as inspiration for her paintings of New Mexico landscapes and images of animal skulls, such as Cow's Skull: Red, White, and Blue and Ram's Head White Hollyhock and Little Hills. After Stieglitz's death, she lived permanently in New Mexico at Georgia O'Keeffe Home and Studio in Abiquiú, until the last years of her life when she lived in Santa Fe. In 2014, O'Keeffe's 1932 painting Jimson Weed sold for $44,405,000, more than three times the previous world auction record for any female artist. After her death, the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum was established in Santa Fe.

Quotes Georgia O'Keeffe

„Nobody sees a flower - really - it is so small it takes time - we haven't time - and to see takes time, like to have a friend takes time.“

—  Georgia O'Keeffe

O'Keeffe's contribution (1939) to the exhibition catalogue of the show An American place (1944)
1930 - 1950
Source: Georgia O'Keeffe
Context: A flower is relatively small. Everyone has many associations with a flower - the idea of flowers. You put out your hand to touch the flower — lean forward to smell it — maybe touch it with your lips almost without thinking — or give it to someone to please them. Still — in a way — nobody sees a flower — really — it is so small — we haven't time — and to see takes time, like to have a friend takes time... So I said to myself — I'll paint what I see — what the flower is to me but I'll paint it big and they will be surprised into taking time to look at it — I will make even busy New-Yorkers take time to see what I see of flowers... Well — I made you take time to look at what I saw and when you took time to really notice my flower, 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.

„Whether you succeed or not is irrelevant, there is no such thing. Making your unknown known is the important thing--and keeping the unknown always beyond you.“

—  Georgia O'Keeffe

Quote in a letter to Sherwood Anderson, October 1923; as quoted in Georgia O'Keeffe: A Life, Roxana Robinson, University Press of New England, 1999
1917 - 1929
Context: I have been thinking of what you say about form... I feel that a real living form is the natural result of the individual’s effort to create the living thing out of the adventure of his spirit into the unknown.... and from that experience comes the desire to make the unknown known. By unknown I mean the thing that means so much to the person that he want to put it down - clarify something he feels but does not clearly understand... Making the unknown known.... if you stop to think of form as form you are lost.

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„The abstraction is often the most definite form for the intangible thing in myself that I can only clarify in paint. …  I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn't say any other way — things I had no words for.“

—  Georgia O'Keeffe

1970 - 1986, Some Memories of Drawings (1976)
Context: It is surprising to me to see how many people separate the objective from the abstract. Objective painting is not good painting unless it is good in the abstract sense. A hill or tree cannot make a good painting just because it is a hill or a tree. It is lines and colours put together so that they say something. For me that is the very basis of painting. The abstraction is often the most definite form for the intangible thing in myself that I can only clarify in paint. …  I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn't say any other way — things I had no words for.<!-- Also quoted in Georgia O’Keeffe: Nature and Abstraction (2007), edited by Richard Marshall, p. 13

„To create one's own world takes courage.“

—  Georgia O'Keeffe

Variant: To create one's world in any of the arts takes courage.

„I hate flowers — I paint them because they're cheaper than models and they don't move!“

—  Georgia O'Keeffe

quote in Portrait of an Artist: A Biography of Georgia O'Keeffe, Laurie Lisle, Viking Press, New York, 1981, p. 180
1980s

„Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Etiam egestas wisi a erat. Morbi imperdiet, mauris ac auctor dictum.“

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