Georgia O'Keeffe

1909 WORDS

Georgia O'Keeffe

Totto O'Keeffe was born in the year on November 15, 1887. She was one of seven
children and spent most of her childhood on a farm, with the typical farm
animals and rolling hills. O'Keeffe's aunt, not her mother, was mostly
responsible for raising her. O'Keeffe did not care much for her aunt, she once
referred to her as, "the headache of my life." She did, however, have
some admiration for her aunt's strict and self disciplined character. O'Keeffe
was given her own room and less responsibility. The younger sisters had to do
more chores and share close living conditions. A younger sister stated that

O'Keeffe always wanted things her way, and if she didn't get them her way,
"she'd raise the devil." It was found through family and friends that

O'Keeffe was like this throughout much of her life. O'Keeffe began her training
early with private art lessons at home. The foundation of her future as an
artist was made. When O'Keeffe was in the eighth grade she asked a daughter of a
farm employee what she was going to do when she grew up. The girl said she
didn't know. O'Keeffe replied very definitely, "...I am going to be an
artist!"--"I don't really know where I got my artist idea...I only
know that by that time it was definitely settled in my mind." She entered
the Sacred Heart Academy, an art school in Madison, Wisconsin, in 1901. At
school she discovered her blooming talent for artwork. Her art seemed to be the
only stable element in O'Keeffe's younger life. In 1902 her parents moved to

Virginia and were joined by the children in 1903. By the age of 16, O'Keeffe had

5 years of private art lessons at various schools in Wisconsin and Virginia. One
particular teacher, Elizabeth Willis, encouraged her to work at her own pace and
granted her opportunities that the other students felt were unfair. At times she
would work intensely, and at other times she would not work for days. When it
was brought to the attention of the principal, she would reply..."When the
spirit moves Georgia, she can do more in a day than you can do in a week"

After receiving her diploma in 1905 she left for Chicago to live with her aunt
and attend the Art Institute of Chicago. She did not return to the Institute the
following year after getting Typhoid Fever. Instead, in 1907 she enrolled at the

Art Student League in New York City. Discouraged with her work, she did not
return to the League in the fall of 1908, but moved back to Chicago and found
work as a commercial artist. During this period O'Keeffe did not pick up a
brush, and said that the smell of turpentine made her sick. She moved back to
her family in Williamsburg, Virginia in 1909 and later enrolled at a nearby
college. In 1912 a friend in Texas wrote to her explaining of a teaching
position was open in Amarillo, Texas for a "drawing supervisor".

O'Keeffe applied for the position and was hired for the fall semester. O'Keeffe
also made trips to Virginia in the summer months to teach at the University of

Virginia. She would remain working at Amarillo until 1914. After resigning her
job in Amarillo, O'Keeffe moved to New York City to attend Columbia Teachers

College until accepting a teaching position at Columbia College in South

Carolina. Having a light schedule, she felt it would be an ideal job that would
give her time to paint. It was at this time that she left behind all she had
been taught about in regards to painting and began to paint as she felt. "I
have things in my head that are not like what anyone has taught me...shapes and
ideas so near to natural to my way of being and thinking that it hasn't
occurred to me to put them down..." During her summers, she studied and
taught art at the University of Virginia, working with Alon Bement, who
introduced her to the theories of Arthur Wesley Dow. Returning to New York in

1914, she enrolled at Columbia Teachers College to study under Dow, whom she
later credited as the strongest influence on the development of her art. In

1916, O'Keeffe's friend Anita Politzer showed some of these abstract drawings to
photographer Alfred Stieglitz, who exhibited them at his avant garde gallery

291, on Fifth Avenue in New York. He exclaimed, "At last, a woman on
paper!" and told Anita the

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