Georgia O'Keeffe was born on November 15, 1887, just outside of Sun Prairie, Wisconsin. She knew right from the start that she wanted to be an artist, and by the time she moved to be with her parents in Virginia in 1903, she had already taken five years of art lessons in both Wisconsin and Virginia.
In 1905, Georgia graduated from high school and went to the Art Institute of Chicago to learn art, living with her aunt in Chicago. However, she soon came down with typhoid fever and decided to change schools. Instead, she attended the Art Student League in New York City starting in 1907. She left in 1908 to move back to Chicago, where she became a commercial artist.
In 1909, Georgia moved back to Virginia and enrolled in another college. Yet she left, again, in 1912, for she had applied for a drawing supervisor position in a school in Texas and received the job. She stayed there till 1914, when she began to attend Columbia Teacher's College in New York City. Then she left that college to be a teacher at South Carolina's Columbia College. It was after this that she began to paint how she felt, not how she was taught.
A friend gave Georgia's paintings to a man named Alfred Stieglitz in 1916, and he posted ten of them in his gallery. Also that year, Georgia taught at the West Texas State Normal College. There, she began to paint watercolors of Texas' canyons.
In April 1917, Georgia opened her first solo show, but she soon after became sick and had to resign from teaching. In 1918, she returned to New York and began a relationship with Stieglitz, who was still married at the time. During their relationship, Stieglitz helped her painting career by arranging her shows and selling her paintings, and when he divorced his wife in 1924, they married in December of that same year. She also started painting flowers that year when the New York winters arrived at their home.
From 1925 to 1937, Stieglitz and Georgia lived in New York in the Shelton Hotel, but Georgia spent most of her time traveling for inspiration for her paintings. Beginning in May 1929, she traveled first to Taos, New Mexico, which she called "the faraway" and adored. She painted many things there, including the church at Ranchos de Taos with a dark, blue sky and a silhouette, as no artist had done before. She also became fascinated by the crosses on the sides of the roads and on the churches, as well as the bones of dead animals in the desert.
Georgia's husband, Stieglitz, died on July 13, 1946. She buried his ashes at the side of Lake George. From that point forward, she had to assume her own art's responsibilities, for Stieglitz had always taken care of them when he was alive. In 1962, she became a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and in 1970, she was invited to the Whitney museum.
In 1971, Georgia's eyesight was rapidly failing and in 1972, she had to stop painting. However, she did take up pottery with the help of her new friend, Hamilton. On March 6, 1986, she died in Santa Fe, having changed the ways of modern art. Her friend, Hamilton, spread her ashes into the wind over her "faraway."
Back to Important Women