(1977) (RT 60:00)
- Premiered 1977 as a Special in celebration of O’Keeffe’s 90 birthday, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C
- Shown 1978 as final program of THE ORIGINALS-WOMEN IN ART series
- Since 1986, part of AMERICAN MASTERS/ WNET
Originally aired as a special to celebrate O’Keeffe’s 90th birthday, Georgia O’Keeffe is the only film portrait of the pioneering artist that she allowed to be made. Shot mainly on-location in New Mexico, the 88-year old painter was filmed in her studio, climbing in the surrounding Ghost Ranch hills and in her home in Abiqui near Sante Fe. Here she talks candidly of her work, her life and her marriage to the legendary photographer and pioneering champion of modern art in America, Alfred Steiglitz. Her recollections are peppered with shrewd observations.
Using abstraction as early as 1915, O’Keeffe sought to express her inner world through intense color and radical personal forms. Long overlooked by the public and critics who would favor her representational subjects, Georgia O’Keeffe’s numerous early abstractions, shown in a major U.S. and foreign exhibitions in 2010 together with the many abstract canvases she continued to paint throughout her life, revealed the painter as one of America’s first abstract artists.
It was the young artist’s earliest abstractions that initially excited the enthusiasm of Alfred Stieglitz in 1917 soon to be followed by an equally intense interest in their beautiful creator. Twenty-five years her senior, the charismatic photographer would become O’Keeffe’s discoverer, mentor, lover and later, her husband. He was a tireless promoter of O’Keeffe and her work, interpreting her painting to art critics and the public as a unique modern expression of female sexuality. This, coupled with the exhibition of his landmark series of photographs of O’Keeffe, which included many intimate nudes, created a sensational public image of O’Keeffe. She was profoundly shaken; she had become a celebrity, but for the wrong reasons. Her art would take a different turn.
On-camera O’Keeffe evokes, often with wry humor, the rich texture of her life with Stieglitz and her role as the only woman in Stieglitz’s famed inner circle of modern American artists. She recalls their passionate interest in each other’s work and their lifelong love, which endured despite a painful marital challenge and long separations. O’Keeffe’s struggle to maintain her own identity in a Stieglitz-dominated world combined with her instant love for the color and shapes of the New Mexican landscape to result in longer and longer stays in the Southwest.
This sensitive film portrait looks behind the Georgia O’Keeffe legend, to reveal a woman
full of warmth, humor and practical wisdom. Her paintings figure prominently in the documentary demonstrating her wide range in style and how nature, especially the mountains and desert of New Mexico, continued to inspire her. In unprecedented sequences, O’Keeffe on-camera describes the origin of many of her famous paintings while the film draws parallels between the canvas and her actual motifs. Her transformation of these motifs that is fascinating to witness. From perceptive interviews with O’Keeffe’s early champion, museum curator David Catton Rich, with art critic Barbara Rose and with author Herbert J. Seligmann come warm reminiscences as well as objective critiques.