When Georgia O’Keeffe first pursued her art, she found herself stifled by the demands of imitative realism, the style taught in art schools. Though she won awards, she didn’t feel comfortable. Fortunately, she came under the influence of a teacher who helped her realize she could use art to express her feelings and ideas, and her imagination and creativity were unleashed.
In 1924, O’Keeffe created Petunia, No. 2, her first large-scale painting of a flower at close range, as if seen through a magnifying glass. These paintings sold for large sums, making her one of America’s most successful artists of the period.
Another theme for which O’Keeffe is known came as a result of her visit to New Mexico in 1929. Traveling through Taos, Santa Fe, and Albuquerque, she grew to love the rugged mountains and deserts of the Southwest. These landscapes, stark architectures, and animal bones became an integral part of her work. She spent time in New Mexico almost every year, and finally moved there permanently in 1949.
More than 500 examples of her works are in over 100 public collections in Asia, Europe, and North and Central America, and she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Gerald Ford in 1977.