Surprise! Georgia O’Keeffe Watercolors

Watercolor, Evening Star No. IV, 1917

Watercolor, Evening Star No. IV, 1917
Georgia O’Keeffe Museum

Surprise! Georgia O’Keeffe didn’t just make large iconic oil paintings of flowers, skyscrapers and bones against a desert landscape!

Georgia O'Keeffe at age 30 with her watercolors in Texas, 1916

Georgia O’Keeffe at age 30 with her watercolors in Texas, 1916
Photograph by Alfred Stieglitz

Miss O’Keeffe, not quite 30 and not yet famous, moved to Canyon, Texas, in 1916. She spent 17 months in the tiny Panhandle town, teaching at a local college and painting small, luscious watercolors of the Texas landscape and nude figures.

Sunrise and Little Clouds, 1916 Georgia O'Keffee

Sunrise and Little Clouds, 1916
Georgia O’Keffee Museum

Nude Series VIII, 1917 Georgia O'Keeffe Museum

Nude Series VIII, 1917
Georgia O’Keeffe Museum

Problem…Nude models were definitely frowned upon for women artists in 1917, and O’Keeffe was intensely interested in painting the human form.

Solution…O’Keeffe used her own body as her model.

O'Keeffe photographed at home in Abiquiú, New Mexico

O’Keeffe photographed at home in Abiquiú, New Mexico Photo by Philippe Halsman, 1948

In 1986, late in life and almost blind, O’Keeffe enlisted the help of several assistants to enable her to once again create art.

“I’ve been absolutely terrified every moment of my life – and I’ve never let it keep me from doing a single thing I wanted to do.” Georgia O’Keeffe

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  1. dede schuhmacher October 19, 2016 at 9:41 am - Reply

    I am sooooo happy you are starting to write your Art Blog again. It is always so informative.
    I feel like O’Keefe’s statement is mine…….I have been always terrified, but it doesn’t stop me

  2. Lydia October 19, 2016 at 10:32 am - Reply

    Thank you Kirby for showing us her early work and ALSO for the glimpse into Georgia’s psyche. I can relate to her in that quote you provided, and how nice to be in such good company! Just goes to show you how we can all keep swimming along, in spite of what might be lurking in the water. (I will ask you for a
    a discussion of “Sunrise and Little Clouds” sometime, because it strikes me as a possible Rorschach image. But then maybe my imagination is running away from me as usual.) L

  3. Bob Ragland October 19, 2016 at 12:21 pm - Reply

    Georgia O’keeffe was a savvy business woman. Her estate was worth 70 Million Dollars.

  4. Lou Burgess October 19, 2016 at 1:24 pm - Reply

    Hi Kirby,
    Great blog. Thank you for keeping me on the list. Hope you are well.
    Lou Burgess SMU ’64

  5. Virginia October 19, 2016 at 2:09 pm - Reply

    I’ve always loved the O’Keefe watercolors – they’re simple and yet oddly monumental – a definite connection to her oils. She knows how to be spontaneous and leave out detail and catch the essence. Such energy in them!

  6. david kremenak October 19, 2016 at 3:00 pm - Reply

    It is interesting to wonder what she could have accomplished had she not been “terrified”. Then again, perhaps the terror was both her impetus and incubus. Anyway, she was one fine artist. Thanks.

  7. Margo Palmer October 20, 2016 at 10:27 am - Reply

    Wow! That’s quite a quote about being terrified every moment of her life! She comes across so confident & strong. I guess she was strong!

  8. Susanne Flowers October 20, 2016 at 1:46 pm - Reply

    Recently saw her wc figures in Santa Fe at the museum. I liked her technique but felt the figures were not that good. She was experimenting. If she had wanted to become a figurative artist, she would have continued. I loved her quick, delicate, miniature sketches of landscapes that were beautifully mounted using wide mats and deep birch frames. The effect was simply elegant. Also, I admire her statement that she was terrified for most of her life but did not let this keep her from living life to the fullest.
    She was brave to admit this.

  9. Cecile Ingram October 21, 2016 at 5:10 pm - Reply

    O’Keefe was so remarkable. THanks for the latest insight.

  10. Shanti Emerson October 25, 2016 at 7:51 am - Reply

    Beautiful, Kirby. So nice to see O’Keefe paintings that I haven’t seen before.

    You go, girl!


  11. Woody October 25, 2016 at 6:20 pm - Reply

    I cannot believe she was ever afraid!

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