Ida Ten Eyck O'Keeffe (American, 1889–1961), Creation, c. 1936. Oil on canvas, 23 x 28 in. Gerald Peters Gallery

Following Ida O’Keeffe’s death on September 27, 1961, the bulk of her art and personal records remained with her youngest sister, Claudia O’Keeffe. Thirteen years later, Claudia O’Keeffe helped arrange a posthumous exhibition of Ida O’Keeffe’s work in Santa Fe, very near Georgia O’Keeffe’s longtime southwestern home. The event reignited the eldest sister’s opposition to any shared familial artistic talents.
The history of art is littered with the unfulfilled ambitions of talented artists. Ida O’Keeffe’s circumstances—discovering oil painting late in life, launching a career during the Great Depression, residing outside of New York’s artistic sphere of influence, and lacking time to concentrate on her art— placed serious, if not insurmountable, obstacles in her path. These challenges were compounded by the era’s scarcity of opportunities for women. Georgia O’Keeffe also made it clear that she wished to be the only serious artist in the family. For her part, Ida O’Keeffe claimed that she would be famous, too, if only she had found “a Stieglitz”—that is, a powerful figure who supported, exhibited, and promoted her art. We are left to wonder at the direction Ida O’Keeffe’s art might have taken had her career unfolded differently.