Leaf Motif, No. 2, 1924
Georgia O’Keeffe (1887–1986) was a major force in American art for seven decades, independent of movements and labels. Known for her depictions of the natural world in the form of landscapes, bones, and flowers, O’Keeffe experimented with color, scale, and line to transform the familiar into surreal and almost abstract forms. Her work greatly influenced the American modernists and the later generations of feminist art. Born near Sun Prairie, Wisconsin in 1887, Georgia O’Keeffe was fortunate to come from a family who stressed the importance of female education. After taking watercolor classes with a local artist, she eventually studied at the Art Institute of Chicago and then went on to New York to continue her studies. After gaining gallery representation from Alfred Stieglitz, her future husband, and his 291 Gallery, O’Keeffe left her teaching career and focused on art full-time.
In 1924, she started a series of large-scale paintings of magnified flowers and leaves, including Leaf Motif, No. 2. The artist enlarged tiny details to draw the viewer into the painting. Paintings like these established the artist’s reputation as an innovative artist. Later in the 1920s, O’Keeffe would make her first trip to New Mexico, where she would settle permanently in 1949. The desert landscape offered new subjects, which occupied her until her death in 1986.
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Georgia O’Keeffe, Leaf Motif No. 2, 1924. Oil on canvas. 35 x 18” Collection of the McNay Art Museum, Mary and Sylvan Lang Collection. © Georgia O’Keeffe Museum/ Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York