There’s a statement in the promotional material devoted to the Georgia O’Keeffe show currently on at Tate Modern: ‘with no works by Georgia O’Keeffe in UK public collections, this is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for audiences outside the US to view the exceptional beauty and skill of her remarkable paintings’. That’s reason enough to make the effort to see the show, don’t you think?
O’Keeffe is a major artist and one worth taking time over. Her works are decorative and representational, but they play with abstraction, an obsession with ‘place’, and picture making in a very Modern way. I suspect that seeing them close-up will reveal even more.
I’ve been recommending that students look at O’Keeffe’s work for a few years despite the impossibility of seeing it in the UK. She takes traditional subject matter (flowers, skulls, shells, clouds, the landscape) and transforms it in paint, often through tightly cropping a subject to fill a canvas. O’Keeffe, in common with many great artists, notices the recurring shapes and rhythms of the world (you might call it ‘visual rhyming’) and shows them in her work. There’s an eloquent slippage between petals, folds in landscape, bone, and female genitalia in her work that would be hard to show in, for example, photography.
Like many people in Europe I have never seen an O’Keeffe in the flesh but am familiar with her work from books, posters, and websites. Join me on the 10 September at Tate Modern to see this show, and to discuss how experiencing the scale, texture, and presence of the works, as well as the ‘skill and beauty’ mentioned by the Tate, differ from seeing the works second-hand.
Being present with the paintings should enable us to see O’Keeffe’s paint-handling within the works (impossible to properly discern in small reproductions) and also how the works interact when placed in juxtaposition with one another.
This exhibition is a wonderful opportunity to gorge on O’Keeffe’s sensual works and to share that pleasure with other OCA students. It promises to be a powerful experience that should profoundly affect any student concerned with the natural world working in Painting and/or Drawing.
You may want to take a look, if you haven’t already, at this episode from the arts series ‘imagine…’ on the BBC iPlayer that coincides with the Tate’s O’Keeffe retrospective.
To reserve your place please email email@example.com or alternatively to request a place on a study visit please click here and complete the form.
For study events that require a ticket, there is a non refundable fee of £10 to pay and your confirmation email will instruct you on how to do this.
Bryan Eccleshall, OCA Tutor.
Georgia O’Keeffe, Jimson Weed/White Flower No. 1, 1932 – Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Arkansas USA © 2016 Georgia O’Keeffe Museum/DACS, London. Photograph by Edward C. Robison III
Georgia O’Keeffe, Oriental Poppies, 1927 – The Collection of the Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis © 2016 Georgia O’Keeffe Museum/DACS, London