New York Modernism

As an art student in New York in 1907 and 1908, Georgia O'Keeffe was introduced to the works of Paul C├ęzanne, Pablo Picasso, and other experimental European artists. Initially wary of their radical styles, by the 1910s she had grown more curious about their work. To learn more, O'Keeffe read Cubists and Post-Impressionism by the American collector Arthur Jerome Eddy, in which she saw a reproduction of Arthur Dove's pastel Based on Leaf Forms and Spaces. She admired Dove's bold, abstract forms and vibrant colors and determined to seek out more of his work.

Dove was already a leading figure of the American modernist movement when O'Keeffe read Eddy's book in 1914. His abstract paintings and pastels were stunningly different from the conventional styles and subjects being taught at art schools and academies. The photographer and critic Alfred Stieglitz, one of America's earliest supporters of modern art, admired Dove's innovative use of forms that evoked the rhythms and patterns of nature. He gave Dove his first solo show at his noted gallery at 291 Fifth Avenue in New York.

After seeing Dove's pastels at the Forum Exhibition of Modern American Painters in New York in 1916, O'Keeffe began to explore color and abstraction in a series of drawings and watercolors. Stieglitz displayed several of them at 291 in 1916 and 1917. Before long, O'Keeffe was a celebrated figure in both Stieglitz's circle and the wider New York art world. Dove admired the works O'Keeffe showed at 291, and the two artists finally met in 1918, the year that O'Keeffe and Stieglitz became romantically involved. By the mid-1920s leading critics were remarking on the visual affinities between Dove's and O'Keeffe's work. They repeatedly viewed paintings by both artists through the lens of Freudian psychoanalysis—then much in vogue—casting them as the quintessential male and female practitioners of modernist art in America.

Georgia O'Keeffe, "New York with Moon," 1925. Oil on canvas. Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, on loan at the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid [© Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection on loan at the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza; © 2009 Georgia O'Keeffe Museum / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York]

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