This art-related series was created to enlighten, and enable parents of elementary age children to build the foundation of art literacy needed for success once their students enter a middle school art program.  First, we presented the seven elements of art, then we began a new series entitled, “Meet the Masters”. 

Born in 1887, when most famous painters were men, Georgia O’Keeffe changed the way people thought about women painters.  Although life on her family’s Wisconsin dairy farm was not an easy one, Georgia took her role as second oldest of seven very seriously. She worked hard and carved out time to enjoy the wilderness around her. From the time she was small Georgia prided herself on being different. She once said, “I was always doing things people don’t do.” This rebellious spirit frequently landed her in trouble, particularly with her Aunt Jennie, whom she once referred to as, “the headache of my life.” To escape her Aunt’s stern tongue she would sneak away and spend hours amongst apple trees, gazing at clouds or dismantling brightly colored flowers in order to fully examine their structure.

It wasn’t until she learned to draw that Georgia was able to express the way nature made her feel. By using an art instruction manual she learned the fundamentals of drawing by copying cubes, squares and spheres. When Georgia’s mother recognized her daughter’s talent, she provided private instruction from a local artist, where Georgia was given the freedom to draw whatever she liked; choosing first an Arabian horse and a single red rose.

The freedom to express herself was short-lived however when she was sent to Sacred Heart school at the age of 14. Although Georgia was crushed to learn her new art teacher disapproved of her attempt at drawing a babies hand, she took the harsh criticism as a challenge.  By the end of the year Georgia received medals of honor for artistic improvement and exemplary behavior. 

At her next school, Chatham, teachers gave Georgia total freedom for artistic expression. Although her academic life flourished, her social life was bleak. Always the rebel, Georgia chose to wear drab, loose fitting clothing; a stark contrast to the fancy ruffled dresses and elaborate ribbons worn by most of her schoolmates. Her strange appearance kept many potential friends at a distance. Her penchant for defying authority is what won over her schoolmates in the end. She eventually was named art editor of the school yearbook.

After graduating college, and spending a year in New York, she moved to Chicago in 1908 and worked as an advertising agency freelance illustrator.  She returned to Art school in 1912 at the University of Virginia where her teacher taught that the goal of an artist was to express personal ideas and feelings.

O’Keeffe’s art style really began to blossom when she took a job as a public school art teacher in Amarillo, Texas.  Her skill made her a very popular teacher. Although she enjoyed education, her desire for new experiences took her back to New York in 1914. After only a year in New York, Georgia felt the call to teach again and ended up in South Carolina. While she taught she felt led to develop her own style of expression.  She returned to Texas to teach once more. Once again the beauty of the west inspired her. In 1929 she took a trip to New Mexico. She felt at home at once. This trip is what inspired her to begin painting the close up, abstract depictions of flowers that she has become so well known for. After her husband’s death in 1946, Georgia bought a simple adobe house in New Mexico and spent the rest of her life there.

In her later years, O’Keeffe won many awards and honors. When she began to lose her eyesight, she began to work with different mediums and made pottery until her health failed in 1984. She died on March 6, 1986.

Georgia O’Keeffe is one of America’s most famous artists. Her paintings are simple, bold and beautiful. She did not always paint realistic pictures. Instead, her work, like other abstract artists, created bold impressions of real life. Her work continues to inspire many people, particularly women artists today. Her paintings are still a wonder to look at.

 

Georgia O’Keeffe Resources:

  • In this You Tube video Jill Lander will teach your student to create their very own O’Keeffe inspired flower with nothing more than paper, glue and chalk.

 

  • At “HappyfamilyArt.com” your self-starter can have a wonderful experience in creating an O’keeffe inspired landscape.

 

  • At the Tate Museum in the United Kingdom, kids can learn and have a lot of fun too! After you are finished with the O’Keeffe section, be sure to go and explore the rest of the site. There is always something new and exciting at the Tate Museum for kids!

Georgia O'Keeffe