The windows of Abiquiu: views on a New American Transcendentalism in the work of Georgia O'Keeffe.
GSD 01-02 Ottobre 2013
Università degli Studi di Milano
Università degli Studi di Trento
Le Finestre di Abiquiu:
Sguardi su un Nuovo Trascendentalismo americano nell’opera di Georgia O’Keeffe
The Lawrence Tree, 1929. Oil on canvas, 30x 40.
“I wish people were all trees and I think I could enjoy them then.”
The Space of
Wisconsin, Virginia, Texas,
American historian, sociologist, art and literary critic
O’keeffe’s painting « possesses that mysterious force,
that hold upon the hidden soul
which distinguishes important communications
from the casual reports of the eye».
New Republic, 1927
Wisconsin, Virginia, Texas and South Carolina:
The Educational Ground
“I was sent away from the
farm – the idea of Sun
Prairie meant nothing to
me – I was sent away
Georgia O’Keeffe’s home and birthplace, in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin
Art Teacher at Columbia University
‘He had an idea that interested me.
- The idea of filling a space in a beautiful way.
Where you have the windows and door in a house.
How you adddress a letter and put on a stamp.
What shoes you choose and how you comb your hair.’
‘I decided to start anew –
to strip away what I had been taught –
to accept as true my own thinking.
This was one of my best times of my life. […]
I was alone and singularly free, working into my
own, unknown – no one to satisfy but myself.’
Song of the Open Road
Henceforth I ask not good-fortune, I myself am good-fortune,
Henceforth I whimper no more, postpone no more, need nothing,
Done with indoor complaints, libraries, querulous criticisms,
Strong and content I travel the open road.
Have the past struggles succeeded?
What has succeeded? yourself? your nation? Nature?
Now understand me well—it is provided in the essence of things
that from any fruition of success, no matter what, shall come
forth something to make a greater struggle necessary. […]
Georgia O’Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz:
a 30-year-long relationship (1916-1946)
I grew up pretty much as everybody else grows up and one
day seven years ago found myself saying to myself –
I can't live where I want to –
I can't go where I want to go –
I can't do what I want to –
I can't even say what I want to... School and Things that
painters have taught me even keep me from painting as I
want to. I decided I was a very stupid fool not to at least
paint as I wanted to.’
Letter to Alfred Stieglitz, 1917
N°17 Special, 1919
Two Calla Lilies on Pink, 1928. Oil on canvas, 40 x 30.
In the studio of Stieglitz’s niece in New York
«I had never lived up so high before and was so excited that I began talking about
trying to paint New York. Of course, I was told it was an impossible idea – even the
men hadn’t done too well with it . […] The next year Stieglitz had a small corner
room at the Andreson Galleries.
There were three large windows.
As you entered you saw my first New York between two windows.
[…] My large New York was sold the first afternoon.»
O’Keeffe and Stieglitz
lived here for 12 years
The Shelton was conceived
as an all-men hotel when it
opened in 1924.
‘To create one's own world, in any of the arts, takes courage’
Pink Dish and Green Leaves, 1928. Oil on canvas, 31 x 40.
New York with Moon, 1925. Oil on canvas, 48 x 30.
The Shelton with Sunspots, 1926. Oil on canvas, 49 x 31.
Radiator Building –Night, New York, 1927. Oil on canvas, 48 x 30.
“L’arte deve germogliare da un terreno particolare e brillare dello spirito del
“Where I was born and where and how I have lived is
unimportant. It is what I have done with where I have been that
should be of interest.[…]
“One cannot be an American by going about saying that one is an
American. It is necessary to feel America, like America, love
America and then work.”
“I can’t be any saint,
I’d rather be an earthen
“It’s my private mountain.
It belongs to me.
God told me if I painted it
enough, I could have it.”
Pedernal, 1941. Oil on canvas, 19 x 30.
Door to Patio, Abiquiu’s House, Todd Webb, 1981
“I found I could say things with color and
shapes that I couldn’t say any other way –
things I had no words for.”
Door through Window, 1956. Oil on canvas.
The Flagpole, 1923. Oil on canvas, 35 x 18.
The Flagpole with White House, 1959. Oil on canvas, 48 x 30.
From the kitchen window at Ghost Ranch
‘No ideas, but in things’
A Black Bird with Snow-Covered Red Hills, 1946. Oil on canvas, 36 x 48.
From the kitchen window at Ghost Ranch
“How can you tell the truth
about things? – that is, how
can you find a language so close
to the world that the world
can be represented and
understood in it?”
Black Bird Series (in the Patio IX), 1950. Oil on canvas, 30 x 40.
In the Patio IV, 1948. Oil on canvas, 14 x 30
In the Patio IV, 1946. Oil on paper, 30 x 24
Patio with Black Door, 1955. Oil on canvas, 40 x 30
White Patio with Red Door, 1960. Oil on canvas, 48 x 84.
Sky Above Clouds, IV, 1965. –Oil on canvas, 96 x 288
Men and women who present us with“ The
breaking of ties with family, home, class, country,
and traditional beliefs as necessary stages in the
achievement of spiritual and intellectual freedom,
invite us to share the larger transcendental or
private systems of order and value which they
have adopted and invented”
Abiquiu, Studio, New Mexico
Georgia O’Keeffe’s portraits by John Loengard,
Ghost Ranch, New Mexico, 1967
“Making your unknown known is the important thing -
and keeping the unknown always beyond you –
catching - crystalizing your simpler clearer vision of life -
only to see it turn stale compared to what you vaguely
feel ahead – that you must always keep working to