Georgia O’Keeffe’s unique modern art at Foundation Beyeler

vor 2 years

The Fondation Beyeler is currently dedicating a comprehensive retrospective to one of the greatest female artists:

She experienced all modern art trends in her nearly 100 years of life, and yet Georgia O’Keeffe developed her very own style between abstract and figurative art.

«Oriental Poppies», 1927, Öl auf Leinwand, 76,7×102,1 cm. © Georgia O’Keeffe Museum / Pro Litteris, Zürich 2021

Watercolors in soft colors, light reflexes between New York skyscrapers, colourful, endless landscapes in New Mexico, streets and doors as abstract motifs. Known primarily in Europe for her large-scale, detailed depictions of blossoms, the current exhibition shows so much more – and illustrates why Georgia O’Keeffe’s success is no coincidence. The Fondation Beyeler in Basel is currently showing 85 works by the American artist. They guide visitors through O’Keeffe’s œvre, from her beginnings as a painter to her late work in New Mexiko. There are also many portraits of the painter, photographed by her husband Alfred Stieglitz and quotes that offer an even deeper insight into her life as a free spirit.

«Jimson Weed / White Flower No. 1», 1932, oil on canvas © Georgia O’Keeffe Museum / Pro Litteris, Zürich 2021

«New York Street with Moon», 1925, oil on canvas © Georgia O’Keeffe Museum / Pro Litteris, Zürich 2021

Of course, O’Keeffe’s famous jimson weed blossom is also shown very centrally in the exhibition, White Flower No. 1, the most expensive work by a female artist ever auctioned. Due to the popularity of this series of works, O’Keeffe is often only associated with her depiction of the world of flowers, but even these paintings get often misinterpreted. The art critics of the time, mostly male, mainly saw erotic associations behind her paintings. A misunderstanding, O’Keeffe didn’t want to paint ecstatic orgasms or provocative female private parts, she was just interested in the flowers.

«Black Mesa Landscape, New Mexico / Out Back of Marie's II», 1930, oil on canvas © Georgia O'Keeffe Museum / Pro Litteris, Zürich 2021

Her late work was entirely made in New Mexico, where she settled after the death of her husband on her Ghost Ranch. Over time, her perception changed, she painted more and more abstractly and changed her perspective to a bird’s eye view. Her paintings also became increasingly colorless after years of being inspired by the bright shades of nature. But despite the gradual loss of her eyesight, Georgia O’Keeffe continued to paint until old age.

The comprehensive exhibition of O’Keeffe’s surprisingly diverse work can be viewed at the Fondation Beyeler in Riehen / Basel until May 22nd.

Words Hannah Sulzbach

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