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Girl with Brush and Canvas: Georgia O'Keeffe, American Artist

Review

Girl with Brush and Canvas: Georgia O'Keeffe, American Artist

American artist Georgia O’Keeffe was born in Wisconsin in 1857 at a time when famous women artists were few and far between. Georgia excelled in art, and at the age of 10, declared she was an artist. Because of that, her parents encouraged her by enrolling her in special art classes. Her parents wanted all of their six children to get a good education, but with such a large family, it was impossible to send all of them to private schools at the same time. So, Georgia was sent to special schools when her parents could afford it.

When she was 15, her family moved to Williamsburg, Virginia. Her father sold the family farm in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, and bought a large house in Charlottesville. Georgia had never conformed to the norms of the times, even in Wisconsin, and she really stuck out in southern society. She exhibited scandalous behavior when she insisted on taking long walks by herself or when she walked around in her bare feet. She didn’t care if she fit in; she didn’t even try.

"O’Keeffe’s life story is a fascinating one and is well worth learning about in any form....well-written and very interesting."

That attitude was brought out in her artwork. While it was the norm to study the masters and to imitate their styles, which she learned to do, she had a difficult time staying within these restraints. Her paintings tended to reflect the way she felt about something; they didn’t necessarily reflect the way the thing actually looked. For that, she was ridiculed and her artwork was often scoffed at. Like most artists, she struggled for years to make a living before being able to sell her work and get money for it. She later became known as the Mother of American Modernism for her bold use of size and color and for her visual interpretations of the world. Today, her artwork fetches high prices and is seen in museums around the world.

Author Carolyn Meyer presents O’Keeffe’s life story as a novel told in the first-person by the artist. This gives the reader a more intimate portrait of this interesting and intriguing artist. But because this is a biography, I think the overall value of the book would have been enhanced with pictures of O’Keeffe’s works, if not scattered throughout the book, then at least added as an addendum to the end. Also, I think a bibliography of some sort should have been added, not only to show what sources the author used for the book, but also to give the reader a list of sources where they could go to get more information about O’Keeffe.

However, O’Keeffe’s life story is a fascinating one and is well worth learning about in any form. This one is well-written and very interesting. According to the story, O’Keeffe destroyed most of her artwork from her childhood and early adulthood. What a shame. It would have been fascinating to see how she grew and progressed as an artist.

Reviewed by Christine M. Irvin on February 26, 2019

Girl with Brush and Canvas: Georgia O'Keeffe, American Artist
by Carolyn Meyer