Portrait of an Artist: A Biography of Georgia O'Keeffe

Portrait of an Artist: A Biography of Georgia O'Keeffe

by Laurie Lisle

Georgia O'Keeffe, one of the most original painters America has ever produced, left behind a remarkable legacy when she died at the age of ninety-eight.

Here is the first full account of her exceptional life-- from her girlhood and early days as a controversial art teacher, to her discovery by the pioneering photographer of the New York avant-garde, Alfred Stieglitz, to her seclusion in the New Mexico desert, where she lived until her death.

And here is the story of a great romance between the extraordinary painter and her much older mentor, lover, and husband, Alfred Stieglitz.

  • Language: English
  • Category: Art
  • Rating: 4.10
  • Pages: 512
  • Publish Date: October 1st 1997 by Washington Square Press
  • Isbn10: 0671016660
  • Isbn13: 9780671016661

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We see how Georgia O'Keeffe's talent developed early in life. In 1903-04 Georgia and her many sisters were driven some miles in a horse and buggy from their Wisconsin farm to art lessons, an almost unheard of extravagance in those still largely frontier days. She becomes a most unorthodox teacher of art in Virginia and, later, Texas. It is while there, in West Texas, that she discovers Big Sky country, the American southwest, whose strange beauty was to possess her for the rest of her life. But between the Texas teaching and the full-time move to New Mexico there was an interval in New York when she was discovered by Alfred Stieglitz, the photographer and gallerist, who championed her, scandalously left his wife and married her, a woman 25 years younger than himself. She is an astonishing historical figure largely because of her output of a timeless body of art which has defied all critical reductions.

I chose "less technical" because I wanted a fast read--and it was, because Georgia O'Keeffe was such an interesting person. Reading most of it while I was in the impressive landscape of Santa Fe itself made O'Keeffe feel more "present." I took a day trip to Taos, a place O'Keeffe said she would not live because it was too arty! It's possible that in mid- and later-life, she was still not "caught" being mischievous with a remark, such as when someone appeared at her gate asking to see her and O'Keeffe said, "Front side," then turned and said "Back side. (Perhaps a more specific request would have garnered a different answer.) Most important to O'Keeffe was painting and Portrait of an Artist treats her style and development thoroughly. O'Keeffe explained that for herself, she painted a thing over and over, e.g. the door in her courtyard, trying to get it "right." She embraced feminism early, but later distanced herself from it because she did not want to be a "woman painter." She wanted to be a "painter," period, and that was the strongest thing she could do for the cause; although, helping the cause was not her intent.

The author tells her story from childhood through her time as a controversial art teacher, through her marriage to Stieglitz, and her life in her beloved deserts of New Mexico.

This book is very, very good. My pleasure has been drawn from getting to understand Georgia O'Keeffe (1887-1986). I had no idea who she was before picking up this book, other than her art of course. Now I simply feel happy knowing that such a person existed. I love it because you get the truth; because you feel when you close the book you intimately know another soul. I am thinking, this person was out there, and I knew nothing about her . It is knowing the person that is such an immense revelation to me. It is the author that has achieved this, not Georgia O'Keeffe, because it was her that has chosen the quotes and put them there in the right sequence so the reader understands their import. O'Keeffe knew so many famous artists. That doesn't happen; each person referred to is tied in with relevant, fascinating information. Yet color, both hue and intensity, is integral to the art of OKeeffe, and color on a computer screen is not true to life, but neither is it in a printed book! Thus the authors words in conveying the correct feeling and nuance are essential. Here are some examples: -the celestial blues, milky whites, pale pinks of the painting radiated a glacial light -a sunset's hot golden glow on the valley -the chunk of heaven the artist had captured You need such writing in a book about art. The book is about OKeeffe, but it is also about Alfred Stieglitz! I believe this books means so much to me because I easily relate to OKeeffes personality. I share her view on art critics and feminists. Have I given you enough of an idea to determine if OKeefe as a person might be someone you can relate to? Of course, you can also read the book to simply learn of what she accomplished. I was uncertain when I began whether to read this book by Laurie Lisle or Georgia: A Novel of Georgia O'Keeffe. If I love a book, the first thing I do is go and check if I can read another by the author.

The book is easy to read, its narrative flow is compelling, and it continues to hold an authoritative place among O'Keeffe's other biographies. (I did not compare the full book.) Lisle does not change her generally sympathetic view to Hamilton, and she slides past the controversy over O'Keeffe's will, treating it in the context of a disagreement with New Mexico museums.

I wanted to explore the creative process, to get a glimpse into how an artist thinks, feels, plans and executes. I think its so foolish for people to want to be happy.

It's not a book to read for its literary value; it is not 'well written' but is serviceable. We hear a whole lot about husband Alfred Stieglitz which is just as interesting as what is told about O'Keeffe.

Laurie wrote the initial biographies of two women artists, Georgia O'Keeffe and Louise Nevelson as well as other nonfiction books about childlessness, gardening, and the small girls' school, where she decided to become a writer.