Museum Masters: Georgia O’Keeffe


220px-O'Keeffe-(hands)Flower and skulls and donuts, oh my! Georgia O’Keeffe was our featured artist of the day and we had a marvelous time learning all about this iconic artist. From her humble beginnings on a farm in Wisconsin, to her love affair with the Southwest, Georgia O’Keeffe provided a multitude of fun information and inspiring pieces for the students to devour. One of the facts that the children really responded to was that Georgia loved the spaces between things – the small windows into the world that surrounded her. She used these spaces in her artwork, particularly in her skull pieces, sometimes painting the sky and the clouds through the eyehole of a skull. Further evidence of her love of spaces? She always ate her donuts all the way around, until all that was left was the hole. I love this aspect of her artistic being – that she so adored and respected the quiet moments in between and used those spaces as a keyhole into something beautiful.

Some more fun facts about Georgia?

  • Georgia O’Keeffe was born in 1887 in Wisconsin. She grew up on a farm where she helped her family by cooking, sewing and growing vegetables.
  • When she was five, she went to school in a one-room schoolhouse and took art lessons after school. She always knew she wanted to be an artist.
  • Georgia traveled to and from her art classes in a horse and buggy!
  • She went to art school in New York City and Chicago, but it was only after that, when she was teaching art lessons herself, that she began to create her own style.
  • A photographer named Alfred Stieglitz took some of O’Keeffe’s paintings and showed them to a gallery owner (without telling her!). This began O’Keeffe’s long career as an artist. Plus, she married Stieglitz!
  • O’Keeffe and Stieglitz lived out in the country and O’Keeffe used the barn as her art studio. She loved to paint the things she saw in nature.
  • When O’Keeffe moved to New Mexico, she began painting pictures of the desert and the wonderful things she found there – beautiful flowers and even animal bones

Today, after talking at length about the wonderful life of Georgia O’Keeffe, we looked at a variety of her most famous (and some of my favorite) works. Here are a few examples that the children really took to:

Jimson Weed

Black Hollyhock, Blue Larkspur

Black Hollyhock, Blue Larkspur

Pelvis IV

Pelvis IV

 

Ram's Head, Blue Morning Glory

Ram’s Head, Blue Morning Glory

 

Once we took a thorough tour of O’Keeffe’s many masterpieces, the children were given the opportunity to create two types of O’Keeffe-inspired pictures. First, we used her many flower paintings as inspiration for our own floral art pieces. I can’t even begin to say how proud I am of my students’ work – their flowers are every bit as gorgeous as O’Keeffe’s. Take a peek for yourself:

photo 4

photo 5

photo 3

photo 1

 

Then, we took inspiration from Georgia’s portraits of animal skulls as we created our own pencil drawings of skulls featuring one little flower, just like in her Ram’s Head, Blue Morning Glory. Aren’t they amazing?

skull3

photo 4 (2)

skull2

 

Here are a few things you can do at home!

  • Jeannette Winter has written an absolutely lovely book about Georgia O’Keeffe that I read to the children today. It is called My Name is Georgia and it really is one of the most beautiful books available about O’Keeffe. Look for it in your local library or bookstore.
  • Show your children even more O’Keeffe artwork by visiting the O’Keeffe Museum online at www.okeeffemuseum.org
  • Georgia O’Keeffe was also a very talented photographer. Let your child borrow your camera or iPhone to take pictures of the flowers in your garden or in your neighborhood!
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