Biography of Georgia O'Keeffe

Essay by iwantyourskullCollege, Undergraduate October 2004

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Georgia O'Keeffe was born on November 15, 1887 in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin to a farming family, the second of seven siblings. Her childhood farm life in the Midwest greatly influenced her art and her later life; she would never be as comfortable living in cities.

When O'Keeffe was sixteen, the family moved to Williamsburg, Virginia, where she took art classes for the first time and was recognized as a talented student. Two years later, she studied art at the school of the Art Institute in Chicago. In 1907 she attended the Art Students League in New York.

O'Keeffe was forced to become a commercial artist for two years to help support her family. Eventually they all moved to Charlottesville, Virginia, where she attended the summer art classes at the University of Alon Bement, a visiting professor from New York's Columbia University.

In the fall of 1915, O'Keeffe taught art at a teachers college in Columbia, South Carolina.

In her free time she experimented with charcoal and drew abstract shapes, struggling to find her own style. These early works represented her dreams and visions. She mailed them to her Columbia classmate and good friend Anita Pollitzer, who showed the works to Alfred Stieglitz, a professional photographer. He was impressed, later exhibiting them at his gallery without O'Keeffe's knowledge or permission. Embarrassed, she demanded that he end the exhibition, to no avail. The public was shocked by what it perceived as the frank sexuality of her shapes; throughout her life, she denied the Freudian symbolism that others saw in her art.

In 1916, O'Keeffe started using oils in vibrant colors, and also experimented with watercolors. O'Keeffe had her first solo exhibition of charcoals, oils, and watercolors in 1917.

Stieglitz, inspired by the strength and beauty of O'Keeffe's face and body, photographed her...