Even if O’Keeffe may not have been inspired directly by Paris, there were other possibilities for her to develop a modernistic eye…

The Art Institute of Chicago

In the years 1905-06, O’Keeffe studied art at the School of the Art Institute in Chicago, one of the large centers of Arts & Crafts supporting development of the decorative arts, like Art Nouveau and home of the Prairie School. 

O’Keeffe studied anatomical drawing and composition under John Vanderpoel, ranking first woman in her class. After a year of studying, she contracted typhoid fever and left Chicago to heal, but returned in 1908 to work at an industrial company, drawing designs for lace and embroidery.

The Art Institute held her first retrospective in 1943 and is the home of several of O’Keeffe’s paintings.

From 1947 and on, she donated her late husband’s art collection and his immense body of photographic works to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Art Institute of Chicago.

O’Keeffe collection at the Art Institute of Chicago

Alfred Stieglitz collection at the Art Institute of Chicago

Chicago Buildings

One of the architects of the Prairie School was Frank Lloyd Wright who was busy building beauty in Chicago around the time.

Take a tour of Frank Lloyd Wright buildings here – link.

Another strong local influence on O’Keeffe was the architecture of Louis SullivanThe Carson Pirie Scott building, with it’s rich design and ornamentation, was already a central landmark in downtown Chicago.

(More about the romanticist phenomenon of the skyscraper in a later post.)

Some artwork from Chicago here.


Lookout, oil on canvas, 22×27 cm, Christina Rahm Galanis, 2009

European Art Magazines

As an embroidery designer in the windy city in 1908-10, she must have noticed jugend artist Hermann Obrist’s Whiplash from 1895, often reproduced in American magazines.

Whiplash, Hermann Obrist, 1895

The important magazine Dekorative Kunst, published in Munich, she might have read in some of the large art libraries in Chicago. Other art magazines worth mentioning are L’Art DécoratifDeutsche Kunst und DekorationGazette des Beaux-Arts, Pan and Studio, all publishing works of artists and art critics from all over Europe, seething with spirituality and culture at the time around the turn of the century.

Books & links

More art from the time period in Chicago: Frank Lloyd Wright.

Reassessing the Wright stuff: New appreciation for a great architect’s domestic interiors 

Is it time for a Neo Art Noveau? The Chicago Art Blog investigated in August 2008.

Art Institute Chicago – Picasso and Chicago; an exhibition February 20 – May 12 2013. 


designinform has recently embarked on a major two-year project to digitize most of the leading European and American art journals published between the 1870s and the early 1920s – making several of them available for the first time online. It will be a significant contribution to art history scholarship and will open up many new areas of research. When complete, it will be an invaluable resource for research into the history of the Aesthetic movement, Art Nouveau, the Arts and Crafts movement, the origins of Modernism, the artists and designers associated with the Wiener Werkstätte, the early days of the Bauhaus, the flowering of the poster, the art of World War One, the genesis of Art Deco, the influence of Japan, the major international exhibitions such as Paris 1889 and 1900, Glasgow 1901, Turin 1902, St. Louis 1904, Brussels 1910, and San Francisco 1915, and the hundreds of thousands of architects, artists and designers active during these years.



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