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Georgia O’Keeffe was one of the first modernist painters of the United States, and the first female one. O’Keeffe knew she wanted to be an artist from a very young age. After finishing boarding school, where she received formal lessons in painting, O’Keeffe attended the Art Institute of Chicago to become an art teacher. At the beginning of the 20th century, being a teacher was the sole approach a woman could have into the art world in the United States. Her first job as a teacher was at a small women’s college in South Carolina. Here, O’Keeffe created the charcoal pieces that caught the attention of Alfred Stieglitz. Stieglitz was a famous photographer, and a renowned advocate for the Modernist movement in the arts. Modernism came to the United States through the work of Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Paul Cézanne, and other vanguard painters. In New York City, Stieglitz owned Gallery 291, acknowledged for showing the pieces of these painters. The first time an O’Keeffe drawing was exposed in public was in 1916 at this gallery. Incidentally, she was the first American painter featured at this place. During a great part of her life, she was mentored and influenced by Stieglitz. Thanks to his support, O’Keeffe left the classrooms to finally become an artist. His attention extended throughout all her career; he organized 22 solo exhibitions and several group installations. They became lovers in 1918 and stayed together until Stieglitz´s death in 1946. O’Keeffe is widely recognized for her technique and themes. She mastered the use of line and composition to create abstract pieces full of simplicity, such as Drawing XIII (1915). During the 1920’s, O’Keeffe started experimenting with vibrant colors to create depictions of flowers and landscapes. Some of her most distinguished paintings were made in this decade: Blue and Green Music(1921), Black Iris III (1926), and Radiator Building – Night, New York (1927). An important part of her life as an artist was spent in New Mexico. There, she felt keen to portray deserts, mountains, and also skulls of animals that represented for her an eternal beauty of the desert. Juxtaposition of these elements was O’Keeffe’s approach to Surrealism. In the 1930s, people of the United States were redefining the “American lifestyle.” Pieces like Cow’s Skull: Red, White and Blue (1931) represented O’Keeffe’s view on the subject. For her, the true image of America went far beyond the limits of big cities. During the last decades of her life, the artist was working on challenging projects like the 24-foot long canvas of Sky Above Clouds series (1965–1967). O’Keeffe never wanted to be considered just a "woman artist," and indeed, she surpassed this concept. By abstracting the natural world, O’Keeffe created images that have become a part of the mythology and iconography of the American artistic landscape. The majority of her works is preserved by The Georgia O’Keeffe Museum.
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