It was in 1916 and it was in May.
The legend of Georgia O’Keeffe was just to be born, in the small attic gallery called 291, in the corner of 5th Avenue and 31st Street in Manhattan, as Stieglitz was hanging 10 of her abstract charcoal drawings, on his gallery walls.
These drawings represented to Stieglitz everything he had ever strived for with 291: “honesty of aim, honesty of self-expression, honesty of revolt against the autocracy of convention”.
Besides, they represented a woman who finally had dared to express herself honestly – abstractly – on paper.
O’Keeffe was an artist in the limelight over a span of seventy years, up until 1986, when she passed away at 98. She produced over 2000 paintings and drawings.
A productive artist, nearly all the way to the end, she seems to have been difficult to place in any particular compartment, and the critique of her art has varied.
She has been called ‘luminist’, ‘transcendentalist’, ‘expressionist’, ‘minimalist’ or ‘precisionist’. ‘Free of style’, also ‘instinctively modern’, at some time ‘surrealist’ or just ‘abstract artist’, but none of these epithets seem precise enough, not even in combination. They only describe styles and do not reach her core.
.Special No. 2, Georgia O’Keeffe, 1915
The earliest abstracts in both charcoal and color, carried a special force.
A visually vibrant symbolism seems to be speaking from another dimension of awareness and the absence of cynicism and anecdotic storytelling is liberating.
Please refer to Barbara Buhler Lynes’ Catalogue Raisonné.
Who was Georgia O’Keeffe before this life of fame?
Becoming O’Keeffe: The Early YearsCanyon Suite.
Early watercolors by GEORGIA O’KEEFFE. With an afterword by Charles C. Eldredge.
Alfred Stieglitz and Georgia O’Keeffe archives, Yale University