Columbians Ahead of Their Time
 Georgia O'Keeffe
Georgia O'Keeffe "I decided that if I could paint that flower in a huge scale, you could not ignore its beauty."

Georgia O'Keeffe (1887–1986)
Teachers College 1914–15

The American artist Georgia O'Keeffe is best known for her large-scale paintings of flowers as well as for the use of color in depicting the vistas and objects of the American Southwest. She first drew attention as a member of the avant-garde movement in New York, rejecting the imitative realism of the 1910s in favor of abstract charcoal drawings, and by the mid-1920s had begun experimenting with the oversized images that would gain her even wider notice. Over the years O'Keefe's career was tirelessly promoted by the photographer and art impresario Alfred Stieglitz, who became her lover in 1918 and her husband in 1924. Stieglitz exhibited O'Keeffe's early work in his New York gallery, and in later years organized annual shows that drew thousands of visitors. In 1943 the Art Institute of Chicago mounted a retrospective of O'Keeffe's work, and in 1946 she was the subject of the first solo exhibition ever given a woman at New York's Museum of Modern Art. O'Keeffe spent part of each year in New Mexico from 1929 on and relocated to the Santa Fe area permanently in 1949, a few years after Stieglitz's death. There she continued to pursue her signature themes until vision problems forced her to give up the paintbrush in the early 1970s.

In 1912, Alon Bement of Teachers College introduced O'Keeffe to the ideas of his colleague Arthur Wesley Dow, who saw art as a representation of the artist's personal feelings—an expression in line, color, and the balance of light and dark. While O'Keeffe had studied at both the Art Institute of Chicago and New York's Art Students League—where she won a prize in 1908 for an oil painting—she had not painted in four years, having concluded that she could not improve upon the work of artists who had come before her. Newly encouraged by Dow's theories, O'Keeffe began working again and returned to New York in the fall of 1914 to take courses at Teachers College. A year later, having moved on to teach art in Columbia, South Carolina, she drew on Dow's theories in producing the abstract charcoals that—through the intervention of former Columbia classmate Anita Pollitzer—brought her to Alfred Stieglitz's attention.


The School of the Arts


Teachers College


Georgia O'Keeffe Museum

Write Columbia's History

Columbia's history, as seen by those who have studied, taught, and worked here.

Columbians have changed the world and how we see it.

C250 Celebrates | C250 Perspectives | C250 Forum | C250 Events | C250 To Go |
Contact C250 | Privacy Policy | About This Web Site | © Copyright 2004 Columbia University