Naturalistic Art: Georgia O’Keeffe

Georgia O’Keeffe is an artist known for including abstraction, bright coloring, and beautiful natural features in her art. One of the first institutes she attended is the renowned Art Students League. While attending this school, O’Keeffe was fed conservative, traditional, one-dimensional European art forms which displeased her immensely. As a result, O’Keeffe left school and worked as a commercial artist in Chicago to support her family.

By 1912, she had come back to the artistic world and took a class at the University of Virginia. The teacher of this class “propounded the theories of Arthur W. Dow, head of the Faculty of Fine Arts at Colombia University Teachers College in New York.” Dow’s two-dimensional, abstractive artistic style grew out of his affinity for Oriental art and Art Nouveau. Dow focused on achieving a harmonious balance between color, form, lines, volume, and space.

After gaining much skill and appreciation for art including that of Arthur Dove (1880-1946) in Virginia, O’Keeffe traveled to South Carolina to teach at Columbia College. Here, she created several unique charcoal pieces which were eventually shown off in galleries. Her inspiration behind these unique new paintings?:

“I said to myself, ‘I have things in my head that are not like what anyone has taught me- shapes and ideas so near to me- so natural to my way of being and thinking that it hasn’t occurred to me to put them down.’ I decided to start anew- to strip away what i had been taught- to accept as my own true thinking. I was alone and singularly free, working into my own, unknown- no one to satisfy but myself.”

Below is one of the charcoal pieces amongst several which she titled the “Special Series”:


Special No. 21, 1916.


Eventually, she began to teach in Canyon, Texas, where she started to form a deep connection between herself and the surrounding Texas plains. Her excursions into the plains inspired her creation of several watercolor pieces that can be viewed below.


Light Coming on the Plains III, 1917.




Canyon with Crows, 1917.



Red Mesa, 1917.


Alfred Steiglitz, a photographer who featured O’Keeffe’s art in his small New York gallery, serves as a major source of inspiration to Georgia and they would go on to work with one another consistently.



Thank you for taking a read. What do you think about these pieces? Let me know, and stay tuned for more posts exploring O’Keeffe’s stunning art career and history.



Abbie Leigh 🐰🖤

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