To celebrate the centennial of Georgia O’Keeffe’s first official exhibition in New York, the Tate Modern is set to stage a major retrospective in the artist’s honor. A tribute, really, to the “mother of modernism”.
The 100-plus painting show will open at the gallery’s Bankside, London location on the sixth of next month and offers an extensive look at O’Keeffe’s 60-year career.
Throughout her life, O’Keeffe gained tremendous recognition for her work, but is most famous for her suggestively erotic depictions of flowers. In 1954, she stated to the art critic Emily Genauer that her reason for painting so many of them was that flowers were cheaper than humans, and not as prone to move. Bolstered by the support and influence of photographer and gallerist Alfred Stieglitz, whom she married in 1924, O’Keeffe came to be known as the “mother of American modernism,” and counted a number of feminist artists such as Judy Chicago and Miriam Shapiro among her biggest fans. More recently, hints of her work have filtered onto the runway, too, with designers like Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez of Proenza Schouler referencing her flower paintings for this year’s Pre-Fall season.
“Men put me down as the best woman painter…I think I’m one of the best painters”. – Georgia O’Keeffe
Although reluctant to commit herself to any one genre, O’Keeffe frequently looked to nature in her work, painting animal bones and desert plains on her regular pilgrimages to northern New Mexico. The fruits of these visits—along with some of her later, more abstract work, inspired by the likes of Arthur Wesley Dow and Wassily Kandinsky—will be on display in the exhibit. Also on show will be the record-breaking Jimson Weed/White Flower No. 1 1932, which sold at Sotheby’s for an impressive $44.4 million in 2014. Although the painting is currently the most expensive work to ever be sold at auction by a female artist, it’s a distinction that O’Keeffe would probably resent. “Men put me down as the best woman painter,” art historian Whitney Chadwick recounts her saying in the 1990 survey Women, Art, and Society, “…I think I’m one of the best painters.”
With no works by O’Keeffe in UK public collections this exhibition is a rare chance to see the beauty and skill of her remarkable paintings outside the US.
“Georgia O’Keeffe” will run from July 6 until October 30, 2016 at the new Tate Modern, Bankside, London, SE1 9TG