In September 1907 O’Keeffe joined the Art Students League in New York City until summer of 1908. After a few years in Chicago, she went back to New York to study at Teacher’s College, Columbia University in New York, between 1915 and 1918. She also held teaching positions during this time in Virginia, South Carolina and Texas.

Dow and Abstraction

One of O’Keeffe’s teachers, Arthur Dow (see earlier post: Arthur Dow – Notan, was one of many in the Arts who was drawn to esoteric occultism. He even made a pilgrimage to India with theosophists in 1903-04.

Dow’s lessons and practices included many of the motifs O’Keeffe would be using later: a simple rectangular house, details of architecture like doors, windows, roads and river bends. His own woodcut prints in color, oil paintings and photographies depict landscapes in a full moon, houses, roads and river bends, close-up of flowers, empty beaches and landscapes from the Grand Canyon and New Mexico.

Arthur Wesley Dow; The Long Road-Argilla Road, Ipswich, ca.1898. Colored inks on laid paper, Sheet: 5 3/8 x 8 1/2 in

Of course it is a puzzle to try to find out who O’Keeffe was or wasn’t  “following”. There are many movements or individuals that stand out as inspiration, just like anyone. 

She was curious, always reading and kept a private library of 3000 books: Freud and Jung, many expensive volumes on Chinese and Japanese art, books on Haiku, Zenbuddism and Yoga. Arthur Jerome Eddy’s book Cubists and Post-Impressionism could be found there.

There were too, presumably well used after 70 years, Kandinsky’s Concerning the Spiritual in Art.

But – I am getting ahead of myself here. It is still early in Georgia O’Keeffe’s career and as she described her start, it was Arthur Dow that she gave credit for inspiring her style:

The way you see nature depends on whatever has influenced your way of seeing. 
I think it was Arthur Dow who affected my start, who helped me to find something of my own… This man had one dominating idea: to fill a space in a beautiful way – and that interested me. 

Georgia O’Keeffe


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