This week in Georgia O'Keeffe notes:
In 1916 a critic had read into one of Georgia's charcoal drawings that she wanted to have a baby, and he was right. She had always been eager to experience life fully, and she felt that giving birth was one of life's tremendous events.
Starting in 1918, the first year she lived with Stieglitz, he openly told people that Georgia wanted to have a child but that he was convinced she should not. He told Georgia that motherhood would divert her from painting. By the summer of 1923, when she was 35, Georgia seemed to have given in to Stieglitz and agreed not to have a child. Her choice was brutally clear—stay with Stieglitz and be an artist or leave and, perhaps, become a mother. Georgia remained with Steiglitz, stayed childless, and devoted the rest of her life to art.
Soon after she moved to the East, Georgia was invited to visit Steiglitz family friends who owned a house in Southern Maine. It was then in the early spring of 1920 that Georgia got to know the sea. Fascinated by the swelling surf, strong salty winds, and the perfect shapes of the polished seashells washed up by the tides, she liked to walk the deserted beaches before the summer people arrived. Throughout the decade she returned to the seacoast almost every year.
In 1922 she suggested to Alfred that they summer near the sea. He laughed at the notion, even though he knew that the sea gave her something tremendous that the hill (Lake George) didn't.
In the summer of 1926, as she was waiting for the rain to stop and the guests to leave Lake George, Georgia complained that she felt like a cat whose fur was rubbed the wrong way. Finally she could stand it no longer and she abruptly fled to the Maine seashore, 175 miles to the east. Surprised and worried, Alfred went after her. He returned three days later alone and with a cold. She returned weeks later and set to work, finishing three paintings in five days.
By 1928 relations between Alfred and Georgia were strained for many reasons (art sales, his refusal to allow her to visit relatives in Wisconsin, his health, etc.) and in Georgia's restlessness she recalled Texas with nostalgia.
For the past 11 summers she had been with him and his family at Lake George, taking only occasional trips elsewhere. Georgia began to think seriously about spending a summer in the West, even if it had to be without Stieglitz. Friends had encouraged the couple to visit Taos. Georgia persuaded Paul Strand's wife, Rebecca, to accompany her and Alfred reluctantly agreed to their trip. On May 1, 1929 Georgia and Beck Strand set out by train for New Mexico.
In spring of 1929, Georgia and Beck Strand travelled to Taos and spent about 5 months at the home of a wealthy art patron, Mabel Dodge Luhan. She wrote that something in her life was ending and another thing was beginning—she wasn't sure what, but she was taking pleasure in letting it happen. During this time Georgia painted the desert, the Ranchos Church, and a series of crosses.
Georgia became fascinated by the dry, white animal skeletons scattered over the desert, picking them up and saving them in the same way she had collected seashells on the beach.
"The bones seem to cut sharply to the center of something that is keenly alive on the desert even tho' it is vast and empty and untouchable-and knows no kindness with all its beauty."
[Interesting that she began painting bones about the same time Alfred began his affair. Also Missouri bones don't get as clean and bleached as desert bones.]
While in Taos, Georgia wanted to explore the wonderful terrain on her own, so she bought a black Model A Ford and began to learn how to drive. Her car gave her an amazing new sense of power and independence (and of course that worried Alfred.)
She spent many hours painting in her Model A. She would leave the passenger seat behind, unbolted and swiveled the driver's seat, and propped her canvas on the back seat. Because of the high windows, she had plenty of light and because of the high roof she could squeeze in a 30x40" canvas.
source for all of the above: Portrait of an Artist by Laurie Lisle
Georgia Engelhard was the first child of George Engelhard and Agnes Stieglitz and the niece of Alfred. Aunt Georgia O'Keeffe took Georgia minor, as she's called, under her wing. The two frequently painted together at Stiegltiz’s summer house on Lake George and occasionally took excursions together. Many years later, O'Keeffe herself was often unable to identify a painting as her own or the younger Georgia's.
Despite a paralyzing fear of heights, Engelhard became a premier mountain climber at the age of 20 and was the first female climber to ascend many of the peaks in the Canadian Rockies. And created quite the scandal for doing so while wearing pants, “Pants are made for men and not for women. Women are made for men and not for pants.” Engelhard was also a writer and an accomplished photographer.
1933. letter from Frida Kahlo to Georgia O'Keeffe 💌
Back in NY Georgia began to suffer from severe headaches and a hypersensitivity to noise. That led to constricted breathing, loss of appetite, and inability to walk or sleep so she was admitted to the hospital. Frida heard of her hospitalization from a mutual friend and wrote her a letter of support and encouragement. Georgia spent seven weeks in the hospital. When checking out she phoned a friend who invited her to Bermuda for the Easter holiday. How Georgia got her groove back = Bermuda :)
This week's piece is a collage flower inspired by #georgiaokeeffe White Lotus, 1939. I might add some stitching to it later.
I can't believe there's only one week left in March! I've ordered books for next month's artist but I'm not feeling near close to done with Georgia.