Georgia O’Keeffe was born in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin. Interested in art from a young age, she began her formal training at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1905, and then at the Art Students League in New York, where she won the William Merritt Chase still-life prize in 1908. O’Keeffe, however, began to feel restricted by her training in academic realism.
After working for two years as a commercial illustrator, she taught art in Virginia, Texas, and South Carolina. While enrolled in a course for art teachers at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, O’Keeffe was introduced to the work of Arthur Wesley Dow. Dow emphasized composition and design over realism and truth to nature. Applying Dow’s teachings in search of her own personal style, O’Keeffe began experimenting with abstraction in a series of charcoal drawings, which were exhibited at the New York gallery of the photographer and art dealer Alfred Stieglitz in 1917. The following year, O’Keeffe moved to New York to pursue a career as an artist. Her professional relationship with Stieglitz grew personal and the two were eventually married in 1924.
Throughout the early 1920s, O’Keeffe painted enlarged close-ups of flowers, which many art critics of the period viewed as representations of female genitalia. These assumptions about female sexuality in her work had been fueled by nude photographs of her, which were taken by Stieglitz and exhibited alongside her paintings in a show at the Anderson Galleries in 1924. This association, however, greatly bothered O’Keeffe and she consistently denied these intentions.
Not comfortable with the loud and crowded life in New York, O’Keeffe found refuge in the remote hills of New Mexico. She began spending her summers there in 1929 and moved to there in 1949. When driving through the hills near her home, she passed through the village of Cebolla where she painted the Church of Santo Niño.
Georgia Totto O'Keeffe (November 15, 1887 – March 6, 1986) was an American modernist artist. She was 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 formal art training at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and then the Art Students League of New York. 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 and 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 imputation of the depiction 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/White Flower No. 1 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.