Sunday, April 28, 2013

Georgia O'Keeffe, a Review of Three Books

Georgia O'Keeffe's  painting, Cliffs Beyond Abiquiu,  was reproduced in  one of my grade school reading books.  It was my favorite of the paintings  in that book.

I have always remembered the vertical composition, the colorful cliffs and the "slit" down through the center of the vertical.  It was the smooth gradual variation of vivid color that appealed to me.  That smooth gradual variations of color  that were so much a part of much of her work are still part of what draws me to her paintings.

I began looking for Georgia O'Keeffe paintings.  Mostly, I found them in art museums Tom and I visited.  Somewhere I came across a book of her paintings in full color  in a large format book...Georgia O'Keeffe, A Studio Book, published by The Viking Press.  The book was first printed in 1976.  The copy I have is from the third printing in 1981.  Georgia O'Keeffe wrote the commentary for the paintings.

Twenty plus years ago, I was pleased when the Quality Paperback Book Club offered Georgia O'Keeffe, a biography written by Roxana Robinson in 1989. When the book arrived,  I opened it up with anticipation.  But I put the book aside after I bogged down reading about her ancestry.  I know forebears are the typical beginning of most biographies but I was reading for pleasure and the details about her ancestors were not my primary interest.

A month ago my sister loaned me The Spirit Catchers by Kathleen Kudlinski, copyright 2004 and published by Watson-Guptill Publications.  The book is part of Art Encounters, a series for young adults.  In this novel,  a fifteen year old boy meets Georgia O'Keeffe in New Mexico in the summer in the 1930s.  She befriends him and teaches him photography.  In return, he cleans her brushes and helps her with other tasks around her adobe dwelling.  Part of the story is concerned with Georgia O'Keeffe's painting, Ram's Skull with Brown Leaves, which is reproduced on the cover.

This book sent me back for another try at the Georgia O'Keeffe biography.   The book is a thick one, over five hundred pages.  There is a lot of information so there were times when I had to set it aside for a day or two so I could absorb what I had read up to that point.  She lived to be ninety-eight and had an active life for most of that time.  This time I read, looking forward to the time that would correspond with the young adult novel.

 Robinson does a good job of describing paintings Georgia was producing so I could look through the Viking Press book and find many of the paintings.  The three books provided a rounded picture, Georgia O'Keeffe as seen from different viewpoints.

She associated with many  well known artists and photographers so I learned a bit about Arthur Dove and John Marin, Ansel Adams and Eliot Porter as well as a lot about her photographer husband, Alfred Stieglitz.

Her strong will, strong opinions,  and deep commitment to her art are obvious in all three books.  It appealed to me that she believed in taking care of this earth long before "being green" and "leaving a small footprint" were  the popular messages they are today.

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