Project Description


(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.


“It was no easy task to persuade Miss O’Keeffe to go before the cameras, said Mrs. Adato,” who has won acclaim and awards for her televised film portraits of such subjects as Gertrude Stein, Dylan Thomas and the designers Charles and Ray Eames. “It took me six months to get her to agree. To start with, I wrote her a letter that I spent a month composing, in which I said that people had talked and written a lot about what Georgia O’Keeffe thinks, but what does O’Keeffe herself say? I felt it was important to give her a chance to her own voice-in a sense, to give her own side of it….Once O’Keeffe made up her mind to do it, she gave everything to it, from 9:30 am to 6pm at night.” Mrs Adato recalled. “Not only did she give me her time, but access to such things as baby photos and a wonderful home movie of herself and Stieglitz in the 1930’s. She probably felt: “If it’s not going to be a good film, it won’t be my fault.”The finished film, agonizingly cut from 90 to 60 minutes by Mrs. Adato, not only incorporates the baby pictures and the home movies, but also makes use of some of the 500 now— famous still photographs that Mr. Stieglitz took of Miss O’Keeffe as well as her paintings—giant flowers, deserts and cityscapes-footage of her current life, talks with Miss O’Keeffe’s friends and well –known critics.”
–Grace Glueck, New York Times
“Perry Miller Adato’s documentary brings O’Keefe’s paintings to life in the artist’s own words. Her enthusiasm for form, for making the small and unnoticeable immense, for intense and vibrant color: This is a rewarding journey through the soul and the eye of a 20th-century great.”
Erik Macki

“In Perry Miller Adato’s stunning documentary, Georgia O’Keeffe proves to be as bold and powerful as her celebrated canvases. Fortunately, Adato’s Georgia O’Keeffe was completed 10 years ago, during the painter’s lifetime and includes extensive interviews with the artist, shot in the rosy light of the New Mexico mesas she memorialized.”
–Carrie Rickey,


Director: Perry Miller Adato
Producer: Perry Miller Adato
Associate Producer: Catherine A. Tatge
Film Editors: Muriel Balash, Suzanne Bauman
Assistant Editor: Patricia Davidson
Music Composed and conducted: John Morris
Music Supervisor: John AdamsVoices:
Georgia O’Keeffe: Frances Sternhagen
Male Critics: Mason AdamsCamera: Don Lenzer
Additional Camera: Chuck Levey, Tom Spain
Sound: Kay Armstrong, Jay Freund, Charles Peck
Camera Animation: Christopher Kogler, John Anthes, Film Planning Assoc.,
Tim Housel
Production Manager: Don Sussman
Production Associate: Mary Feldbauer
Production Assistants: Margarite d’Anna, Melissa Sutphen
Art Consultant: Daniel Catton Rich
Consultant: Juan Hamilton

Georgia O’Keeffe
Juan Hamilton
Barbara Rose
Daniel Catton Rich
Herbert SeligmanPhotographs by:
Alfred Stieglitz
Ansel Adams
Cecil Beaton
Kay Bell
Paul Strand
Edward Steichen
Michael Vaccaro
Todd Webb
Jerry Winters

Our Thanks to:
The Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
The Yale Collection of American Literature
The Metropolitan Museum of Art/ The Alfred Stieglitz Collection
National Gallery of Art /The Alfred Stieglitz Collection
The Viking Press
Sid Deutsch Art Gallery Inc. NYC
Helios Gallery, NYC
Light Gallery, NYC
Scenes from Land of Enchantment by Henwar RodakiewiczPersonal footage courtesy of Claudia O’Keeffe
Albright- Knox Art Gallery
Amon Carter Museum
Aperture Inc.
The Art Institute of Chicago
Mrs. Harry Lynde Bradley and
The Bradley Family Foundation
The Brooklyn Museum
Doris Bry
Currier Gallery of Art
Fisk University
Indianapolis Museum of Art
Inland Steel Company
Milwaukee Art Center
Collection, The Museum of Modern Art
Museum of New Mexico
Museum of the City of New York
Munson-Williams-Proctor Institute
National Collection of Fine Arts
Nebraska Art Association
Newark Museum
The New Britain Museum of American Art
The New York Public Library Picture Collection
Norton Gallery and School of Art, West Palm Beach, Florida
Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum
Philadelphia Museum of Art The Alfred Stieglitz Collection
The Philips Collection, Washington DC
Frank & Catherin Prosser
Dr. & Mrs. Harold Rifkin
The St. Louis Art Museum, Gift of Charles E & Mary Merrill
State Historical Society of Wisconsin
Mrs. Charles D. Tandy
University Art Collection, Arizona State University
University Art Museum, University of New Mexico
University of Arizona Museum of art
University of Texas, Austin
Collection University Gallery, University of Minnesota
Vassar College
Walker Art Center
Whitney Museum of American Art
Fine Arts Gallery of San DiegoFor American Masters:
Production Coordinator: Dina Hossain
Production Assistant: Alan Weeks
Associate Producer: Karen Bernstein
Senior Producer: Tamar Hacker
Director of Cultural Programs: Jac Venza
Executive Producer: Susan Lacy

American Express
Rosalind P. Walter
The Marilyn M. Simpson Charitable Trust
Jack Rudin
The Andre And Elizabeth Kertesz Foundation
The Blanche and Irving Laurie Foundation
The Michael and Helen Schaffer Foundation