Georgia O' Keeffe
6 July – 30 October 2016
Over 100 works by the pioneering artist reveal her to be more than just a 'painter of flowers'.
Georgia O'Keeffe is widely credited as the 'mother of modernism' and her esteemed Jimson Weed, White Flower holds the record for being the most expensive painting by a female artist ever to be sold at auction. And yet there are no works by O'Keeffe in a UK public collection.
This summer Tate Modern's sprawling retrospective of the American artist showcases her talent to audiences in Britain. As well as the flower paintings for which she is best known, less familiar early works reveal her synaesthetic experiments with music, colour and composition.
Key to the display is a selection of the art she created in New Mexico – where she lived intermittently between 1929 and 1946 and then fulltime until 1984. O'Keeffe would take trips into the mountains and deserts of the region, making pictures of the landscape, old ruins, clouds and sky. The rocks and bones she collected from the desert floor were also important subjects for her work.
One of her favourite locations to paint was an area that was so remote she called it the 'Black Place'. Camping out there for extended periods, at times the wind was so strong she had trouble keeping her canvas on the easel, while at others she had to crawl under her car for shelter from the intense heat of the sun.
In 2014 O'Keeffe's Jimson Weed/White Flower sold for $44,405,000 – more than three times the previous world auction record for any female artist. The humble garden weed it depicts was one of her very favourite subjects; she allowed it to flourish around the patio of her home in Abiququ and painted it repeatedly – each time from a different perspective. She said: 'When you take a flower in your hand and really look at it, it's your world for the moment. I want to give that world to someone else. Most people in the city rush around so, they have no time to look at a flower. I want them to see it whether they want to or not'.
On display here, this important piece evidences her career-long obsession with still lifes, as well as the stylistic qualities of modernist photography – such as cropping and distortion – that she embraced in her work (her husband was Alfred Stieglitz and Tate has also devoted a whole room to the reciprocities in their relationship).
Georgia O'Keeffe's work was 'radical, innovative, inquisitive', writes Rachel Spence in the summer issue of Art Quarterly.