Words by Jodie Kharas
When London is wet, miserable and very very grey, we went get our green fix at the Tate Modern gallery to see the flower filled, Georgia O’Keeffe exhibition.
A pioneer of Twentieth Century art, Georgia O’Keeffe is best known for her colour-drenched paintings of animal skulls, landscapes of New Mexico - where she spent the second half of her life - and flowers. The American artist is considered one of the most important figures to kick-start the modernist art movement in the US. Modernism captured a total rejection of the art that came before it. The artists of this movement favoured bolder, more experimental painting styles that better reflected modern society.
Alfred Stieglitz, Georgia O’Keeffe (1918)
Georgia knew she wanted to be an artist from when she was 12 years old. At the age of 29, the artist sent some of her works to her photographer friend Anita Politzer, who passed them onto Alfred Stieglitz, a major art collector and photographer who was living in New York at the time. When Alfred first saw Georgia’s paintings, he famously exclaimed, “finally a woman on paper”. An intense love affair followed and Georgia and Alfred married in 1924.
Georgia O’Keeffe, Jimson Weed/White Flower No.1 (1932)
The exhibition features over 100 of Georgia’s works, from her early experiments in charcoal to her most iconic works. Her beautiful painting Jimson Weed/White Flower No. 1 (1932) is the most expensive painting by a female artist ever sold at auction. Georgia’s rejection of sexism in the art world is just another reason to fall in love with her; “Men put me down as the best woman painter…I think I’m one of the best painters.”
Let’s talk flowers. Flowers were a constant source of inspiration for Georgia, throughout her career. From white Roses to Oriental Poppies, the artist was clearly as obsessed as we are! A lot of critics have likened some of Georgia’s more close-up paintings of flowers to female genitalia, to which the artist responded “when people read erotic symbols into my paintings, they’re really talking about their own affairs.”
Georgia O’Keeffe, Abstraction White Rose (1927)
When you see just how many of Georgia’s paintings were of flowers, plants and trees it’s obvious that the artist was totally fascinated by nature. When she first visited New Mexico in the summer of 1929, the artist would take long walks across the dry and dusty plains. Because the rain didn’t come, there were no flowers. Wanting to bring something back from her walks, Georgia started picking up animal bones instead. This sparked another obsession and the artist went on to paint important works including From the Faraway, Nearby (1937) and Cow’s Skull: Red, White and Blue (1931).
The show closes with Georgia’s painting Sky Above the Clouds III / Above the Clouds III (1963). In the final years before her death in 1986, the artist became inspired by the aeroplane journeys she took to and from New Mexico. The super wide painting is all perfect pebble-shaped clouds on a brilliant blue sky and guarantees you leave the exhibition on a high; “One day when I was flying back to New Mexico, the sky below was a most beautiful solid white. It looked so secure that I thought I could walk right out on it to the horizon if the door opened. It was so wonderful I couldn’t wait to be home to paint it.”
Georgia O’Keeffe, Black Mesa Landscape, New Mexico / Out Back of Marie's II (1930)
A riot of colour, nature and pure emotion, what's not to love! Want to inject some O’Keeffe-inspired nature into your home? We recommend investing in a beautiful Burros Tail. Hailing from Mexico, this hanging succulent is all about texture - just look at those thick braided leaves! We recommend planting yours in a sturdy pot and placing on a balcony or window sill so it has plenty of room to grow down (and so you can show it off to the neighbours).
Like all desert plants, these babies love the light but keep an eye on it in the hot summer months as they’re partial to a bit of sunburn. Go easy on the water too - once a week is ideal, just make sure the soil has completely dried out between waterings. Although, if the leaves start to shrivel you might want to give him a little extra. They aren’t big eaters either so a monthly feed is more than enough. If bugs appear on the leaves, just give it a gentle rinse to keep it looking its best.