Recently, while writing a profile of the great painter Georgia O'Keeffe, I came across a number of interesting details of her life and career. In doing research I learned that in order to have a visual timeline of her career and to keep the prices and demand for her work high, O'Keeffe kept or bought back more than half of all the 2000 or more paintings she created in her lifetime. She also appeared in art exhibitions for which she was not the artist, but the subject; her husband Alfred Stieglitz was an art gallery owner and photographer, and did a series of photographs featuring O'Keeffe (even a few nudes) during their marriage.
Although perhaps most surprising to me was that O'Keeffe did not always paint the forms for which we know her today. The stark white bones contrasting with the desert sky and the colorful over-sized insides of flowers were done in a style that O'Keeffe didn't adopt until she was nearly 40, but those paintings were so overwhelmingly popular that they have somewhat overshadowed her early work.
O'Keeffe's early work was of a more abstract nature. From about 1915 until the mid 1920s, O'Keeffe drew and painted images that expressed a view of the world in stark contrast to the almost photographic paintings of her later years. It was an early series of her charcoal on paper drawings (that were an abstract exploration of line and shape) that first caught the eye of then gallery owner Alfred Stieglitz. The Georgia O'Keeffe museum notes that O'Keeffe was ahead of her art colleagues of the time with her interest in abstract work, just as her ultra realistic more famous paintings would show the world another innovative view later on.
One of the great advances in technology over the last decade is the increased availability of online multimedia, such as images and videos. This allows users to not just read about artists, but to experience their work. At the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum Web site you can look at examples of her work from different eras in her career, including her abstract period. You would be hard-pressed to encounter many of these pieces in real life.
And if you'd like to visit the work of other well-known artists online, see our article about virtually visiting museums.Haley Lovett