Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Georgia O'Keefe - major retrospective at Tate Modern in 2016

Yesterday the Tate announced its exhibition programme for 2016. It will include a major retrospective of the work of Georgia O'Keeffe as the Summer Exhibition at Tate Modern running between 6 July – 30 October 2016. Booking will open shortly and I predict this will be an extremely popular exhibition.

The above link goes to an article about what we can expect from the exhibition.
Tate Modern will present a major retrospective of the American modernist artist Georgia O’Keeffe, a century after her New York debut. The exhibition is the first important solo institutional exhibition of the artist’s work in the UK for a generation.
Below are links to my own research about O'Keeffe and her work in the last ten years.

Georgia O’Keeffe | Abstraction White Rose (1927)
Oil on canvas, 36 x 30 (91.4 x 76.2)
Georgia O’Keeffe Museum.
Gift of The Burnett Foundation and Georgia O’Keeffe Foundation
© Georgia O’Keeffe Museum
She straddles the line between figuration and abstraction with her abstracted paintings of flowers and landscapes and the figurative features of her deliberately abstract paintings.
"One paints what is around" Georgia O'Keeffe
I'm a huge fan of her paintings of flowers and these have very much influenced my own approach to developing macro perspectives on cacti and succulents. I also love her landscapes and her ability to see a rich and colourful language within the landscape of Northern New Mexico
"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" Georgia O'Keeffe

My Georgia O'Keeffe Month

Back in 2007 I did a project on Georgia O'Keeffe which I recorded on this blog.  It was prompted by my July 2006 visit to the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico. I was a fan when I went and came away an even bigger one.

The Georgia O'Keeffe museum was stunning. I've felt an affinity with the work of Georgia O'Keeffe and her approach to art (her focus on landscapes, macro flowers and colour) for some time and have been keen to know how she achieves such deceptively simple images. I've been wanting to go to the museum for a very long time - on the basis that you can't beat seeing art 'up close and personal' as an aid to understanding art - and was not disappointed.
Subsequently I wanted to find out more about Georgia O'Keeffe and her art, her flowers and her landscapes.  Here's a record of the posts I published in 2007 and subsequently. These posts record the process of discovery and my conclusions as I studied her art. 

I adore flowers and images of flowers and enjoy the process of developing artwork based on a flower or flowers as much as looking at the end result. In developing my own work I've become increasingly drawn to the notion of exploring the flower through focusing on the structure of a single bloom. I now want to see how I can develop further and this is what this month will be all about. Naturally, in wanting to learn more about how best to do this, I've become very interested in the work of Georgia O'Keeffe - hence Georgia O'Keeffe month!
As you know I've been hunting down useful books for my Georgia O'Keeffe month. On Friday, I bought "Georgia O'Keeffe Museum Collections (Volume 2)" by Barbara Buhler Lynes at Kew Gardens. Having now had a chance to look through this book - which is the right way to describe a book which is mainly full page plates of colour images of her work - I've come to a few conclusions.
I've included some quotations from Georgia O'Keeffe which I copied down when I visited the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe last year.
I'm trying to get to grips with Notan - using "Composition" the book by Arthur Wesley Dow, first published in 1899, which was Georgia O'Keeffe's bible when she went through the same process.
This post follows on from Learning about Notan #1. I thought I'd share something about what Dow has to say about Notan - the Japanese concept involving the placement of lights and darks next to the other to read as flat shapes on the two-dimensional surface - and harmony in two value designs and then how this can apply to compositions involving flowers.
I've been finding it very difficult to reduce to just two value Notan. Although I understand the principles, it would appear my brain does not want to play!
Also included are reviews of books about her art

"O'Keeffe" by Britta Benke (subtitle Georgia O'Keeffe, 1887-1986, Flowers of the Desert) is a splendid and very informative book. It's also a complete bargain, being available for an amazing price whichever country you live in.
I also published posts about her work on other blogs

Georgia O'Keeffe's favourite 'place to paint' landscapes was northern New Mexico. My personal view is that her landscapes although less well known are just as worthy of public attention and acclaim as her very famous paintings of flowers.
Summary review: HIGHLY RECOMMENDEDThe landscape of New Mexico is just a strong motif in Georgia O'Keeffe's work as her popular flowers. This book explores the locations she painted in and analyses her approach to her landscape work in New Mexico. It provides insight into both the character of the place, the painter and the person.

I love this video of her talking about her work on YouTube

I love this quotation of what Georgia had to say to those people who developed their own (often perverse) ideas about what her flower paintings were about.
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 to me 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


  1. Hi, Katherine - great post on Ms. O'Keefe. Last year I came across "Georgia O'Keefe's Hawaii" and read it straight through on a Saturday night. It was just wonderful and had some great insights into Ms. O'Keefe and her work. It is written from the point of view of a teenage girl whose parents were hosting the artist and the girl was a sort of tour guide for her. The writing is direct and simple but very effective. It is available on Amazon.

  2. I adore her work so much. I have a print of her Oriental Poppies painting above my bed. I really appreciate her sense of aesthetics in her work.


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