#15 Serenade in BluePortfolio

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Blue
   blossoming

Blue
   blossoming

Bold, colourful and intriguing. The abstract flower paintings of Georgia O’Keeffe show a kind of rough female tension that’s pure and catchy. But most of all they are very authentic_______.

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About Georgia O’Keeffe

Georgia O’ Keeffe (1887 – 1986) was one of the first female painters to achieve worldwide acclaim from critics and the general public. She was an American painter who created innovative impressionist images that challenged perceptions and evolved constantly throughout her career. O’Keeffe’s lifework still is most identified by her iconic flower paintings.

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“MY WAY OF WORKING LAYS IN THE SPONTANEITY AND THE INSPIRATION OF THE MOMENT______.”
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Flowercast

Calla
Rose
Iris
Morning glory
Poppy
Jasmine
Campsis

“NOBODY SEES A FLOWER — REALLY — IT IS SO SMALL IT TAKES TIME”
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Georgia decided that ‘if you could paint that flower in a huge scale, you could not ignore it’s beauty.’

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Georgia knew from the age of 12 that she wanted to be an artist. She went to art school but what she was taught there didn’t seem relevant to the way she wanted to paint. Then in 1912 she discovered the revolutionary ideas of an artist and designer called Arthur Wesley Dow. He emphasised the importance of composition – which means how you arrange shapes and colours. As O’Keeffe explained: “His idea was, to put it simply, fill a space in a beautiful way”. This was a light-bulb moment for her and from then on she began to experiment with shapes, colours and marks.

Large-scale flowers

In the 1920’s Georgia met other artists who, like her, were experimenting with abstract art. They didn’t just want to show how something looked but were using colours, shapes and brush-marks in unexpected ways to express meanings, ideas and feelings. This encouraged Georgia to develop her own unique style – a combination of abstract and realistic. Her work shifted towards oil paintings which appeared to be magnified natural forms. In 1925, her first large-scale flower painting was exhibited in New York City. Petunia marked the beginning of a period of exploration on the flower theme that would continue throughout her career.

Iconic paintings

By magnifying her subject, Georgia emphasised shape and colour and brought attention to the tiny details within the flower. During her life, flower is a motif that Georgia O’Keeffe always returns to. “If you take a flower in your hand and really look at it, it’s your world for a moment”, she once said. While her work varied between the literal portraits, abstractions and landscapes, O’Keeffe’s work is still most identified by her iconic flower paintings, because: “Nobody sees a flower - really - it is so small it takes time, like to have a friend takes time.”

Sexual symbols

In the second half of the 1920s O’Keeffe brake through as an artist was a fact. With her-still-talked-about close-ups of flowers she made an everlasting impression. The way O’Keeffe painted a flower was entirely new. The heart of a flower was the focus, as if the performance was signed from the perspective of a bee, as one critic pointed out. “I decided that if you could paint that flower in a huge scale, you could not ignore it’s beauty”, O’Keeffe said. The responses were again divided: apart from very positive reviews, there was also a lot of criticism. In this time, in which the theories of Freud, many saw O’Keeffe's ascendant flowers as fraught sexual symbols. Although such an interpretation was rejected by the artist herself, there are till this present day art historians who see ambiguous, sexual symbols in O’Keeffe’s language.

Intuitive and natural

Though it may be the most recognisable style of O’Keeffe, her varied body of work shows much more variety than the one style she’s most known for. Within her work and life, O’Keeffe was unapologetically true to her own vision. When she did attempt to supersede her intuition to complete hired work, she became troubled and always retreated back to what felt familiar and natural. That is exactly why she became one of the most important and innovative floral artists of the twentieth century________.

Text
Rosanne Loffeld

Paintings
Georgia O’Keeffe