Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern

Mary and Charlie Babcock Wing Gallery

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Reynolda House Museum of American Art will mark its centennial as an estate and its fiftieth anniversary as a museum with an exciting and timely exhibition of the work of Georgia O’Keeffe. Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern explores how the artist’s modern sensibility saturated her art, her life, her homes, and her carefully fashioned public (and private) personas. Reynolda House is one of only three venues to host the exhibition, and the only venue south of New York. 

Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern presents a completely new, highly focused, and meticulously researched perspective on the unified modernist aesthetic of O’Keeffe’s dress and art. In addition to a number of carefully chosen paintings by O’Keeffe and photographs of her and her homes by Alfred Stieglitz, Ansel Adams, Todd Webb, Philippe Halsman and others, the exhibition will feature selected items from her personal wardrobe that highlight her preference for compact masses, organic silhouettes, and minimal ornamentation. O’Keeffe considered her clothed body as another canvas on which to proclaim her modernism. Freshly conserved and shown in this exhibition for the first time, her understated and carefully designed garments dating from the 1920s to the 1980s will be presented alongside key paintings and photographs of her at various points in her career. 

The exhibition will be organized to explore key themes that place O’Keeffe’s self-fashioning within the history of artistic identity, women’s culture, and modernist consumer design. It will look at the ways she confronted and incorporated “masculine” austerity in her wardrobe as well as her deep and abiding appreciation for Asian fashion and aesthetics. Of particular interest are the various “uniforms” O’Keeffe invented throughout her life so that she would look distinctive without spending much time planning her ensemble. 

In the first two decades of her career, she made black and white her dominant “colors” of dress and her garments were interchangeable; in those same years, she made black and white significant colors in her painting palette and continued to feature them for the rest of her lifetime. When she moved to New Mexico, she enlarged her palette, introducing strong colors in both her everyday dress and paintings. Immersed in the panoramic sea blue skies of the Southwest, and the arid colors of the geographical formations in the desert, she leaned towards blues, pinks, and turquoises. Yet, when professional photographers came from the East coast to picture her, O’Keeffe reverted to her black and white outfits to perpetuate her public persona as a nun-like presence in the American desert. 

This exhibition is organized by the Brooklyn Museum, with guest curator Wanda M. Corn, Robert and Ruth Halperin Professor Emerita in Art History, Stanford University, and made possible by the National Endowment for the Arts.

A fully illustrated catalogue will accompany the exhibition.

Slideshow images:

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864–1946). Georgia O’Keeffe, circa 1920–22. Gelatin silver print, 4½ x 3½ in. (11.4 x 9 cm). Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe, N.M.; Gift of The Georgia O’Keeffe Foundation, 2003.01.006. © Georgia O’Keeffe Museum

Georgia O’Keeffe (American, 1887–1986). Blue #2, 1916. Watercolor on paper, 15⅞ x 11 in. (40.3 x 27.8 cm). Brooklyn Museum; Bequest of Mary T. Cockcroft, by exchange, 58.74. (Photo: Sarah DeSantis, Brooklyn Museum)

Georgia O’Keeffe (American, 1887–1986). Pool in the Woods, Lake George, 1922. Pastel on paper, 17 x 27½ in. (43.3 x 69.9 cm). Reynolda House Museum of American Art, Winston-Salem, N.C.; Gift of Barbara B. Millhouse in memory of E. Carter, Nancy Susan Reynolds, and Winifred Babcock, 1984.2.9. Courtesy of Reynolda House Museum of American Art, affiliated with Wake Forest University. © Georgia O’Keeffe Museum/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Georgia O’Keeffe (American, 1887–1986). Ram’s Head, White Hollyhock—Hills (Ram’s Head and White Hollyhock, New Mexico), 1935. Oil on canvas, 30 x 36 in. (76.2 x 91.4 cm). Brooklyn Museum; Bequest of Edith and Milton Lowenthal, 1992.11.28. (Photo: Brooklyn Museum)

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864–1946). Georgia O’Keeffe at 291, 1917. Platinum print, 9⅝ x 7⅝ in. (24.3 x 19.4 cm). Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe, N.M.; Gift of The Georgia O’Keeffe Foundation. © Georgia O’Keeffe Museum

Attributed to Georgia O’Keeffe. Blouse, circa early to mid-1930s. White linen. Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe, N.M.; Gift of Juan and Anna Marie Hamilton, 2000.03.0248. (Photo: © Gavin Ashworth)