Georgia O’Keeffe believed it was impossible to be taught how to paint a landscape. She thought it was something an artist had to discover for herself; something she had to feel deep within her bones. When she visited New Mexico, she learned quickly and never stopped being inspired by her surroundings.
If you haven’t heard her name, you’ve probably seen her large-format paintings of enlarged blossoms. In these paintings, Georgia O’Keeffe tricks you into thinking that you’re peering at flowers though a magnifying lens. With these paintings, and many other works of art, she became one of America’s most important modern artists within a decade.
After making her mark in New York, O’Keeffe became inspired by New Mexico’s natural beauty in 1917 when she traveled from Texas to vacation in Colorado. She spent several days in New Mexico and instantly felt as if it were “her country.” She couldn’t quite put her finger on what drew her to the land, but she thought maybe it was something in the air. She said that the sky, the stars and the wind were different.
Twelve years later, she bought a car, learned to drive, and spent the first of many summers painting various architectural, tree and landscape forms that have made her a famous modernist today.
In the mid-1930s, she began roaming areas south of Taos, such as Alcalde, Espanola and Santa Fe. She was completely inspired by the brightly colored red and yellow hills, the jagged white cliffs, the pale greens of the cedar trees, and the bleached desert bones she collected. All of these natural New Mexican elements became subjects in her work throughout the 1940s.
In 1949, she made New Mexico her permanent home and continued to paint, draw and make pottery until her failing eyesight forced her to retire in 1984. In 1986 she passed away at the age of 98 in Santa Fe. Her ashes were scattered in the wind at the top of Pedernal Mountain, which is frequently featured in her paintings.
To celebrate this internationally know artist, the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum opened in July 1997, just eleven years after her death. It is the only museum in the world dedicated to an American female artist and it is the most frequented art museum in the state of New Mexico.
Located in Santa Fe, the museum’s collection of over 3,000 works comprises 1,149 O’Keeffe paintings, drawings and sculptures that date from 1901 to 1984. Some of its special exhibitions are either devoted entirely to O’Keeffe’s work or feature some of her art combined with works by her American modernist contemporaries. Other artists, such as Andy Warhol and Jackson Pollock have been exhibited at the museum as well.
The Georgia O’Keefe Museum Research Center, dedicated to the study of American modernism, was opened in July 2001 as a component of the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum. It sponsors research in art history, architectural history and design, literature, music and photography.
These two Pueblo Revival style buildings are located just two blocks from the historic Santa Fe Plaza.