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Art and Artists
 Berenice Abbott
 Giovanni Canal
 Frank Gehry
 Marsden Hartley
 Louis Lozowick
 Mexico (Nayarit)
 David Nash
 Georgia O'Keeffe
 Vincent van Gogh

Inner Worlds What is Art?   Identity Designing Spaces and Places
Georgia O'Keeffe
O'Keeffe, Oriental PoppiesClick for larger image
Georgia O'Keeffe
Oriental Poppies, 1928
oil on canvas
30 x 40 1/8 in.

About the Art

Georgia O'Keeffe's paintings of flowers are among her most famous. Many critics and scholars have talked about themes in O'Keeffe's work such as the cycles of birth, life, death and decay. Others saw the flowers as symbols of sexuality. Still others observed that she was incorporating photographic techniques such as cropping and close-ups, even before the technology of color film or large photographic blow-ups had been invented. Georgia O'Keeffe herself did not confirm the critics' interpretations of her flower paintings. She was painting the plants as she saw them--merely observing nature in her own way. She said, "A flower is relatively small. Everyone has many associations with a flower... still--in a way--nobody really sees a flower--really--it is so small....So I said to myself--I'll paint what I see...but I'll paint it big and they will be surprised into taking time to look at it...even busy New Yorkers [will] take time to see what I see of flowers....When you [refering to critics and others who wrote about these paintings] took time to really notice my flower you hung all your associations with flowers on my flower as if I think and see what you think and see of the flower--and I don't."

O'Keeffe was interested in European-based modern art, but she felt she could only go so far painting like her teachers and other artists. Around 1915, she read an important book by the Russian modern painter Wassily Kandinsky, titled Concerning the Spiritual in Art, which strengthened her desire to make something that was profoundly personal. O'Keeffe's style of painting was first and foremost her own personal vision.

Vocabulary Terms

abstract--Art that looks as if it contains little or no recognizable or realistic forms from the physical world. Focus on formal elements such as colors, lines, or shapes. Artists often "abstract" objects by changing, simplifying, or exaggerating what they see.

cropping--In photography, cropping refers to the practice of establishing the edge of an image. Often a close cropped photograph cuts parts of the central image off for expressive or compositional purposes.

modern, modernism--In art history, this term refers to the philosophies of art made in Europe and the United States during a period roughly from the 1860s through the 1970s when certain artists began to take radical steps away from traditional art in order to be deliberately different, critical, and often dissenting from the dominant official taste. Modern art or modernism is characterized by changing attitudes about art, an interest in contemporary events as subjects, personal artistic expression, and freedom from realism. Modernism can be seen as artists' attempts to come to terms with urban, industrial, and secular society that emerged during the 19th century in Western society.

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