Georgia O’Keeffe Cheatsheet

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What you need to know by 3/3/01



Artist Information


Birthdate: November 15, 1887 Born Georgia Totto O’Keeffe

Location: Sun Prairie Wisconsin

Died: March 6, 1986 Dies in Saint Vincent’s Hospital, Sante Fe. Her Ashes were scattered across the landscape near Ghost Ranch.

Nationality: American

Styles:Imitative realism, Notan, Representational, Abstract, 3-Dimensional

Mediums (Media) used: Oil on canvas, Oil on board, watercolor, charcoal, pastels, and clay (during 3-dimensional era)

Artistic Focus: Known for her images of flowers, skulls, trees, landscapes, churches, nudes, and the American West.

often used elements of the southwestern desert landscape in her work. Mountains, skulls and bones often appeared in her paintings as did larger than life flowers. During her 70+ years as both an artist and teacher, O’Keeffe’s art fluctuated between representational and the abstract.

Painting Career: 1901-1984

Total number of works: 2000+

Important works include: “Cow’s skull” and “White and Blue”, 1931

                                                 “Black Iris”, 1926



Georgia O’Keeffe was the second of seven children and grew up on a farm in Sun Prairie Wisconsin. She received art lessons at home, using prang drawing books, and her talents were encouraged at school. She was educated in a one room school house on her parents property.

1897: Georgia visits her aunt Ollie, a woman of strong and idependent character, became a major influence in her life.

1899: Dow’s instructional manual “Composition” is published, proposing an approach to art that is against Western realist tradition and favors historical, topical, and geographical lines of development. This book is made by prang and was bought by O’Keeffe. Sarah Mann, became O’Keeffe’s watercolor teacher.

1900: “The Book of Tea” by Kakuzo Okakura was published and became important to O’Keefe’s style early in her career.

1901: began attending Sacred Heart Academy, a convent boarding school and wins a gold pin for her drawing.

1902: Her parents move to Williamsburg Virginia, and she lives with Aunt Lola in Madison Wisconson. She begins attending Madison High School. Her art teacher’s exercises from life prove inspirational The teacher held up a jack in the pulpit and it was the first time Georgia’s attention was called to the outline and color of any growing thing with the idea of painting it.

1903 Enrolls in girl’s boarding school, Chatham Episcopal Insititute, in Virginia, graduating in 1905

 By the time she graduated from high school in 1905, O’Keeffe determined make her way as an artist.


O’Keeffe pursued studies at the Art Institute of Chicago (1905-1906), and the Art Students League, New York (1907-1906), where she learned the principles of what became Imitative Realism. While at the Art institute she became immersed in the international art nouveau culture. During this time Ernest Fenollasa lectures at the Art Institute.  In 1908 she won the League’s William Merritt Chase still-life prize for her oil painting “Untitled (Dead Rabbit with Copper Pot)”.

1908: O’Keeffe meets Stieglitz for the first time at a Rodin exhibition

Shortly thereafter, however, O’Keeffe runs out of money and caught the measles and  quit making art, saying that she had known then that she could never achieve distinction working in art.

In 1911 She teaches for the first time at Chatham Epsicopal taking over for her teacher Elizabeth Willis.


Her interest in art was rekindled four years later when she took a summer course for art teachers at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, taught by Alon Bement of Teachers College, Columbia University. Bement introduced O’Keeffe to the revolutionary ideas of his colleague at Teachers College, artist and art educator Wesley Dow.


Dow believed that the goal of art was the expression of the artist’s personal ideas and feelings and that such subject matter was best realized through harmonious arrangements of line, color, and Notan (the Japanese system of lights and darks). Dow’s ideas offered O’Keeffe an alternative to imitative realism, and she experimented with them for two years, while she was either teaching art in the Amarillo Texas public schools or working summers in Virginia as Bement’s assistant.


O’Keeffe was in New York again, thanks to aunt Ollie’s support from 1914-1915 taking courses at Teachers College. By the fall of 1915, she was teaching art at Columbia College, Columbia South Carolina. There she decided to put Dow’s theories to the test.  In an attempt to discover a personal language to express her own feelings, she began a series of abstract charcoal drawings that are now recognized as being among the most innovative of all American art of the period. She mailed some of these drawings to a former Columbia classmate, who showed them to internationally known photographer and art impresario, Alfred Stieglitz, on Jan 1, 1916.

1916-1917: During this time O’Keeffe studies from “Cubist and Post-Impressionists” by Artuhur Jerome Eddy and Kandinsky’s “Concerning the Spiritual In Art’.  These books influence O’Keeffe her use of charcoal. She does a series of charcoal abstractions called “specials” that have elements of international art Nouveau. With these abstractions she relates her abstractions with music, a technique taught by Bement, Dow, and Kandinsky.  During these years she starts using colors that are drawn in watercolor with a Japanese brush. “Along the way I probably looked very carefully at Chinese and Japanese paintings before I got to the Blue Lines.” In 1917 O’Keeffe made her first sale, a charcoal called “Train at Night in the Desert”, 1916. During this year she views the works of Marin, Walkdowitz, and Paul Strand, these artists “made” her feel how color could impact art. In august of 1917 she visits the rockies for the first time and this is her first glimpse of the high mesa country in New Mexico.

In 1918 O’Keeffe recovers from the flu and begins a series of nudes in watercolor that show the influence of Rodin. During this time Stieglitz convinces her to move back to New York so that she can recover from the flu. The room that she is staying in is brightly colored in yellow and orange and this made her feel good. This influence showed in her piece “59th Street Studio”. In 1918 O’Keeffe begins increasing her mastery in oils, to the point that she was better at oils than she was with pastels or charcoals.

1919: In 1919 O’Keeffe borrowed a framing device from Dow-Fenollosa that allowed her to begin enlarging her flower paintings in cropped close-up views such as “Red Flower”.

Stieglitz began corresponding with O’Keeffe, who returned to New York that spring to attend classes at Teachers College, and he exhibited 10 of her charcoal abstractions in May at his famous avant-garde gallery, 291. A year later he opened a one-person exhibition of O’Keeffe’s work. In the spring of 1918 he offered O’Keeffe financial support to paint for a year in New York, which she accepted, moving there from Texas where she had been teaching at West Texas State Normal College, Canyon since 1916.  Shortly after arriving in New York in June, she and Stieglitz, fell in love and lived and worked together in New York (during the winter and spring) and at the Stiegitz family estate at Lake George, New York (summer and fall). The two were married in 1924. During this time period O’Keeffe started a series of colorful improvisations inspired by music.

In 1920 O’Keeffe renovated a shed on the Lake George Estate. This shed as well as her favorite season, fall, led to the piece “My Shanty, Lake George”, 1922.  She starts exploring fruit, especially apples, in  a series of small still-lifes in both oil and charcoal. In 1922 She begins a yearly tradition of painting her favorite red maple tree. “I wish people were all trees and I think I could enjoy them then.  In 1922 O’Keeffe designs an art nouveau-style logo for “Manuscripts”, a magazine produced by Stieglitz. The two worked this way until 1929, when O’Keeffe started spending every summer painting in New Mexico.


From 1923 until his death in 1946, Stieglitz worked hard and efficiently to promote O’Keeffe and her work, organizing annual exhibitions of her art at the Anderson Galleries (1923-1925), The Intimate Gallery (1925-1929), and An American Place (1929-1946). As early as the mid-1920’s, when O’Keeffe first began painting large scale depictions of flowers as if seen close up, which are among her best-known pictures, she had become recognized as one of America’s most important and successful artists.  1924: paints “leaf Motif#2”. Stieglitz suffers a kidney attack, a sign that his health is fading.

1925: O’Keeffes large scale paintings are first exhibited. During this year Stieglitz and O’Keeffe moved to the 28th floor of the Shelton Hotel, in New York City. This apartment had little to no color except for occasional flowers. While living at the Shelton, she began painting the New York skyscrapers, while Stieglitz begins doing the same in photographs. During this year she has her first urban landscape “New York with Moon, 1925, on exhibit. O’Keeffe becomes known for her use of color in its simplist terms.

1927: Has to give up painting for a year due to surgeries to remove benign tumors.



Three years after Stieglitz’s death (1949), O’Keeffe moved from New York to New Mexico, whose stunning vistas and stark landscape configurations had inspired her work since 1929. She lived at her Ghost Ranch house, which she purchased in1940, and at a house she purchased in Abiquiu in 1945. O’Keeffe continued to work until the late 1970’s when failing eyesight forced her to abandon painting. She then became a three-dimensional artist, producing objects in clay until her health failed in 1984. She died two years later in 1986, at the age of 98.


During her years in New York City (1907-1949) Georgia O’Keeffe became fascinated with the skyline of New York. She enjoyed the urban landscape of bridges, factories, piers, and skyscrapers; artists enjoyed painting these because they symbolically represented America’s ingenuity and prowess, and its growth skyward. This growth skyward of New York’s skyscrapers symbolically represents America becoming one of the most powerful nations of the world during this time period. One of O’Keeffe’s first paintings of the city was “Blue lines” in 1916. This painting is a mixture of vertical and diagonal lines of buildings as she saw them from her room. This first watercolor was first shown in 1917 by Stieglitz at 291. “Black Lines” was painted in 1916. O’Keeffe didn’t really start to paint cityscapes until the mid 1920’s. The reason she started to focus on the skyscrapers is because she said “In the twenties, huge buildings sometimes seemed to be going up overnight in New York… It was the building that made this fine shape, so I… painted it” The result of this fascination let to “New York Street with Moon, 1925”. This was the first of approximately 40 sketches, drawings and paintings of New York that she completed between 1925-1949.

Around this time she began living in 1925 at the Newly completed Shelton Hotel on Lexington Ave. at 49th street. This building and the views from its upper floors often inspired her work. Among the Shelton- related works include “The Shelton with Sunspots, N.Y. 1926”, “East Riverfrom the 30th story of the Shelton Hotel, 1928”. “A Street”, 1926, shows an unidentifiable but typical New York “Cavern”. With “New York Night”, 1926, O’Keeffe responds to the city through abstraction.

After 1918, O’Keeffe lived in New York at least part of each year until 1949, 3 years after Stieglitz’s death, when she made New Mexico her permanent home. Her last two city pictures include a charcoal and an oil painting both titled “Brooklyn Bridge”, 1949, which many have interpreted as farewells to the city and to Stieglitz. Although O’Keeffe always claimed to prefer the vast skies, and vistas of the American Southwest, her studies in New York are among the most important of her works, and of works of that period regarding New York City.


Georgia O’Keeffe’s Artwork (A Brief Collection)


Dead Rabbit with Copper Pot, 1908

Oil on canvas


Trees at Glorieta, New Mexico, 1929
oil on canvas,

Series I—No.2, 1918
oil on board,


New York Street with Moon, 1925

Oil on canvas, mounted to masonite



Examples of the following can be found on Decathlon flashcards, or click on the links mentioned above each category



Paintings featuring bones

The following can be viewed by clicking on:


Goat’s Horn with Red, 1945


Cow’s Skull-Red, White and Blue 1930


Cow’s Skull with Calico Roses, 1931


From the Faraway Nearby, 1937


Horse’s Skull on Blue, 1930


Jawbone and Fungus, 1930


Mule’s Skull with Pink Poinsettias, 1937


Thigh Bone with Black Stripe, 1930


Horse Skull with White Rose, 1931


Ram’s Head-White Hollyhock-Little Hills, 1935


The following can be viewed by clicking on


Pelvis Front, 1943


Pelvis Series, 1947


Pelvis with Shadow and the Moon, 1943


Pelvis I, Pelvis with Blue, 1944


Pelvis III (year unknown)


Pelvis Series, Red with Yellow, 1945


Pelvis With Moon, 1943


Painting Featuring Flowers


The following can be viewed by clicking on


Jack in the Pulpit No. II, 1930


Jack in the Pulpit No. III, 1930


Jack in the Pulpit No. IV, 1930


Jack in the Pulpit No.V, 1930


Jack in the Pulpit No. VI, 1930


Yellow Cactus, 1940


An Orchid, (year unknown)


Black Iris III, (year unknown)


Calla Lilly on Gray, (year unknown)


Datura and Pedernal, 1940


Iris, 1929


The following can be viewed by clicking on


Morning Glory with Black, 1926


Oriental Poppies, 1927


Pansy, 1926


Petunia, (year unknown)


Petunias (year unknown)


Poppies, 1950


Poppy, 1927


Red Canna, 1920


Red Poppy, (year unknown)


Red Canna (up close), 1923


The following can be viewed by clicking on


Red Flower, 1919


Two Calla Lilies on Pink, (year unknown)


Two Jimson Weeds, (year unknown)


White Camelia, (year unknown)


White Flower, 1929


White Flower, (year unknown)


White Rose with Larkspur No. 2, (year unknown)


Yellow Calla, 1926


Yellow Calla, (year unknown)


Pink Sweet Peas, 1927






The following can be viewed at the following link: http://www.happyshadows,com/okeeffe/new.htm


Black Cross, New Mexico, 1929


Black Place, Grey and Pink, 1949


Black Place I, 1945


Blue and Green Music, 1919


Cebolla Church, 1945


Cottonwood Tree in Spring, 1943


Datura and Pedernal, 1940


Drawing #8, 1915


Early #2, 1915


From the Faraway Nearby, 1937


From the Plains II, 1954


Hernandez Church, New Mexico, 1931



The following can be viewed by clicking on http://www.happyshadows,com/okeeffe/new2.htm


Horse Skull with White Rose, 1931


It Was Blue and Green, 1960


Nude Series VIII, 1917


Nude Series XII, 1917


Orange and Red Streak, 1919


Pelvis Front, 1943


Pelvis Series, 1947


Pelvis with Shadow and the Moon, 1943


Purple Hills Near Abiquiu, 1935


Ram’s Head-White Hollyhock-Little Hills, N.M. 1935


Ranchos Church, Taos, 1929


Red and Orange Hills, 1938-39


The following can be viewed by clicking on


Red and Yellow Cliffs, 1940


Special No. 12, 1917


Special No. 15, 1916


Special No. 21, 1916


Special No. 4, 1915


The Mountain, New Mexico, 1931


The White Place in the Shadow, 1942


Thigh Bone with Black Stripe, 1930



Paintings that feature churches


The following can be viewed by clicking on


Bell/Cross Ranchos Church, 1930


Black Cross, New Mexico, 1929  (Better know this one, this is one of her more famous works)


Fragment of the Ranchos de Taos, 1929


Grey Cross with Blue, 1929


Ranchos Church, Taos, 1929


Cebolla Church, 1945


Hernandez Church, New Mexico, 1931


Paintings that feature abstractions


The following can be viewed by clicking on


Abstraction VI, (year unknown)


Grey Line with Black, Blue and Yellow, 1923


Line and Curve, (year unknown)


Abstraction IX, 1916


Black Abstraction, 1927


Blue I, 1958


Music Pink and Blue II, (year unknown)


Series I, No. 12, (year unknown)


A Celebration, 1924


Blue and Green Music, 1919


Drawing No.8, 1915


Early No. 2, 1915


The following can be viewed by clicking on


From The Plains II, 1954


It Was Blue and Green, 1960


Orange and Red Streak, 1919


Special No. 12, 1917


Special No. 15, 1916


Special, No. 21, 1916


Special No. 4, 1915


Paintings that feature trees


The following can be viewed by clicking on


Autumn Trees-The Maple, (year unknown)


Bare Trunks with Snow, (year unknown)


Birch and Pine Trees-Pink, (year unknown)


Maple and Cedar-Red, (year unknown)


Oak Leaves, Pink and Gray, 1929


Old Maple, Lake George, 1926


Cottonwood Tree in Spring, 1943


The Lawrence Tree, 1929


Paintings that feature landscapes


The following can be viewed by clicking on


New York Night, 1928-29


Sky Above White Clouds I, 1962


Black Place, Grey and Pink, 1949


Red and Orange Hills, 1938-39


Canyon with Crows, 1917


City Night, 1926


Dark Mesa and Pink Sky, 1930


Pink Dish and Green Leaves, 1928


East River from Shelton 2, 1926


Black Place I, 1945


Grey Hills, 1942


Red and Yellow Cliffs, 1940


To following can be viewed by clicking on


Evening Star VI, 1917


Long Pink Hills, 1940


Mountains and Lake, 1961


Purple Hills Near Abiquiu, 1935


Red Hills and Pedernal, (year unknown)


Soft Gray Alcade Hill, 1929-30


View From My Studio, 1930


View From My Studio, New Mexico, 1930


The Mountain, New Mexico, 1931


The White Place in the Shadow, 1942


Misc. Paintings


The following can be viewed by clicking on


3 Shells, 1937


Shell No. 1, 1928


Black Rock with Blue III, 1970


Red Hill and White Shell, 1938


White Canadian Barn No. 2, (year unknown)


Nude Series VIII, 1917


Nude Series XII, 1917


The following can be viewed by clicking on


Cottonwood III, 1944


A Storm, 1922


Red, White and Blue, 1931


Cebolla Church, 1945


Red Flower and Ranchos Church No. 1


Dark Mesa and Pink Sky, 1930


Horse’s Skull on Blue, 1930


Seaweed,  (year unknown)


Sunflower, New Mexico


Cos Cob, (year unknown)


White Rose with Larkspur No. 2, 1927


Poppy, 1927


Evening Star III, watercolor, 1917


East River from the Thirtieth Story of the Shelton Hotel


Pool in the Woods, Lake George, (year unknown)


Birch Trees at Dawn on Lake George, (year unknown)


New York, Night, 1928


Blue Nude, watercolor, 1917


Oriental poppies and Oak Leaves, Pink and Gray, (year unknown)


Black Door with Red, 1954


Taos, New Mexico, 1931


Autumn Leaves- Lake George, N.Y.


Under Construction: Still trying to track down final piece of O’Keeffe and other tidbits that are not found anywhere

Quotes from Georgia O’Keeffe (used to understand why she painted what she painted)

Nobody sees a flower, really, it is so small. We haven’t time- and to see takes time like to have a friend takes time.

If I could paint the flower exactly as I see it no one would see what I see because I would paint it small like the flower is small. So I said to myself- “I’ll paint what I see-what the flower is tome but I’ll paint it big and they will be surprised into taking time to look at it- I will make even busy New Yorkers take time to see what I see of flowers.

…. Well, I made you take time to look at what I saw and when you took time to really notice my flower you hung all your own associations with flowers on my flower and you write about my flower as if I think and see what you think and see of the flower – and I don’t.

-         Georgia O’Keeffe


Nothing is less real than realism, Details are confusing. It is only by selection, by elimination, by emphasis that we get at the real meaning of things – 1922

I am starting all over now- Have put everything I have ever done away and don’t expect to get any ofit out ever again- or for a long time anyway.

Whether the flower or the color is the focus I do not know. I do know that the flower is painted large to convey to you my experience of the flower- and what is my experience of the flower if it is not color.

The painting is like a thread that runs through all the reasons for the other things that make one’s life.


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