Georgia O'Keeffe Museum

Santa Fe, NM




The Georgia O'Keeffe Museum, America's first art museum dedicated to the work of a woman artist of international stature, opened to the public in July, 1997 in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Devoted to preserving and presenting the life work of one of America's preeminent artists, the 13,000 square-foot museum houses a permanent collection of O'Keeffe's art unsurpassed by any museum in the world. The new museum, situated in an adobe building being renovated by architect Richard Gluckman, brings to downtown Santa Fe an outstanding selection of work by the artist most closely identified with the city and the Southwest.



Georgia O'Keeffe was born in 1887 in Wisconsin. She made her first visit to Santa Fe in 1917 and lived and worked full-time in New Mexico from 1949 until her death in 1986. In the vanguard of American modernist painting, she was a pioneer both as a figurative artist and as an early proponent of abstraction. Her ability to adapt early modernist tenets to quintessentially American motifs helped develop Americans' appreciation for the pictorial and poetic possibilities of abstraction.

Known for the reductive power and simplicity of her compositions, O'Keeffe felt a special affinity to the vast, austere landscape of the Southwest and explored the essence of her chosen subjects through a subtle balance of poetic allusion, intense color, and linear precision. In 1924, O'Keeffe married the photographer and modern art world impresario, Alfred Stieglitz, and counted artists such as Marsden Hartley, Charles Demuth, Arthur Dove and Paul Strand among her friends and colleagues. Best known for her monumental depictions of flowers, O'Keeffe shunned Freudian interpretations of her work and critical evaluations that focused on her gender. She once commented, "The men liked to put me down as the best woman painter. I think I'm one of the best painters."

O'Keeffe moved from her principal home and studio in Abiquiu, New Mexico to Santa Fe several years before her death in 1986 at age 98. Her studio in Abiquiu, less than 50 miles from the O'Keeffe Museum, is operated by The Georgia O'Keeffe Foundation and is open to the public by appointment.


Collections, Programs and Publications:

The mission of the O'Keeffe Museum focuses on three major areas: the presentation and continuing development of the museum's permanent collection of paintings, drawings, and sculpture by O'Keeffe, as well as archival material related to her life and work; the support and creation of traveling exhibitions and educational programming that illuminate aspects of O'Keeffe's art, her lasting contribution to American culture and that of her contemporaries; and the support of new scholarly work on O'Keeffe.

The permanent collection of the O'Keeffe Museum includes more than 80 paintings, watercolors, drawings, pastels, and sculpture made by Georgia O'Keeffe between 1914 and 1982, tracing her artistic evolution as she moved among America's academic, modernist, and literary circles. Subjects range from the artist's iconic flowers and bleached desert skulls to nudes, landscapes, cityscapes, and still lifes. The work demonstrates O'Keeffe's remarkable facility with a wide range of media and the depth and breadth of her long, productive career.

The museum's entire permanent collection will be on view when the O'Keeffe Museum opens to the public. A centerpiece of the collection is Jimson Weed (1932), one of the artist's quintessential large-scale flower paintings and among O'Keeffe's favorite flowers. O'Keeffe liked to produce paintings in multiple versions and this was the first of a particularly inspired group. The painting has been widely exhibited in major O'Keeffe exhibitions both in the U.S. and abroad.

Other highlights include Nude Series (Seated Red), circa 1917; Dark Iris III, 1927; and In the Patio VIII, 1950, as well as paintings dating to significant moments in O'Keeffe's life such as Autumn Trees -- The Maple which was completed in 1924, the year O'Keeffe married Alfred Stieglitz and began experimenting with her first large flower paintings.

A recent gift of 33 works, donated jointly by The Burnett Foundation of Fort Worth, TX and The Georgia O'Keeffe Foundation, is the largest group of O'Keeffes ever given to a single institution. The gift comprises major paintings which remained in the artist's hands throughout her lifetime. In addition, the O'Keeffe Museum is developing an array of educational and outreach activities to enhance visitor appreciation of O'Keeffe's art.

The museum is publishing with Harry N. Abrams, Inc. a definitive catalogue on its permanent collection, featuring essays by such leading scholars and critics on American art as Lisa Mintz Messinger, Barbara Novak, Barbara Rose, and Mark Stevens. The publication, with all the works fully-illustrated in color, will offer new insights into O'Keeffe's art including the 19th-century underpinnings of her work and her influence on contemporary artists.

Other of the museum's research sponsorships include its support of the first comprehensive catalogue raisonné on O'Keeffe, developed by the National Gallery of Art, The Georgia O'Keeffe Foundation and The Henry Luce Foundation, Inc.; the development of a definitive oral history project; and a survey of O'Keeffe as a subject in American photography. The museum's long-range plans include the establishment of a study center on the museum premises providing scholars, students, and the general public with reference materials on the life and art of Georgia O'Keeffe and her contemporaries. To this end and as part of ongoing collection development, the museum is collecting by gift and purchase O'Keeffe-related manuscripts and photographs.



The new O'Keeffe Museum, located near Santa Fe's historic central plaza, is designed by architect Richard Gluckman. Recognized internationally for his work on art museums and galleries, he has designed such projects as the Dia Center for the Arts, the renovation and expansion of the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, and the gallery interiors for SITE Santa Fe's contemporary art facility.

The facilities of the O'Keeffe Museum comprise a former Spanish Baptist church in Santa Fe's trademark adobe style, which was adapted in 1990 for reuse as a contemporary arts gallery and will house the majority of the museum's permanent collection galleries; and a modest addition that will relate stylistically to the main building and surrounding streetscape and will facilitate visitor access and amenities. The main building will be divided into ten large exhibition galleries, which wrap around an outdoor courtyard showcasing sculpture by O'Keeffe. The addition will accommodate visitor reception and orientation spaces and a book shop, as well as museum offices on the upper floor.



The new museum was founded in November 1995 by philanthropists Anne and John Marion, art-time residents of Santa Fe. Mrs. Marion is president of the museum and The Burnett Foundation of Fort Worth. Mr. Marion is honorary chairman of Sotheby's North America. Longtime patrons of the arts in Santa Fe, the Marions are also major benefactors of SITE Santa Fe, the Santa Fe Art Institute, the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, and The College of Santa Fe's arts department.


Editor's note:

This article was published in July, 1997.

Read more articles and essays concerning this institutional source by visiting the sub-index page for the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum in Resource Library.

For further biographical information on selected artists cited in this article please see America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists.

rev. 8/24/10, 12/10/10

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