PORTLAND – This summer, the Portland Museum of Art will present an exhibition of photographs of Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986), one of the most significant artists of the 20th century. This is the first exhibition to pair paintings and photographs to establish two opposing public images of the artist.

The exhibition will include 60 photographs of Georgia O’Keeffe, along with 18 works by the artist that address the relationship between her art and images taken of her during the course of her long career. “Georgia O’Keeffe and the Camera: The Art of Identity” features works by such famous photographers as Alfred Stieglitz, Ansel Adams, Eliot Porter, Todd Webb, Irving Penn, and Arnold Newman. The exhibition will be on view June 12 through Sept. 7.

O’Keeffe is best known for her paintings of large-scale flowers, New York cityscapes, animal bones, and the landscape of New Mexico. Her extraordinary career focused first on a highly innovative exploration of abstraction and shifted towards powerful representation and heightened realism after the mid-1920s.

This exhibition explores the essential role that photography played in establishing her reputation, promoting her career and creating her public persona. O’Keeffe’s lasting fame rests on the strength of her work and the romantic story of her life. Photographs made by her art dealer-husband, her friends, celebrity portraitists and photojournalists all serve to tell various versions of that tale.

O’Keeffe and her connection with photography began with Alfred Stieglitz in New York in 1917. Early in her career, she was primarily an abstract artist and a leading member of one of the avant-garde art movements that blossomed in New York in the 1910s and 1920s.

It was Stieglitz’s version of O’Keeffe’s life, told through the eyes of a modern art impresario and impassioned lover, which captured the critics’ attention and the press. His photographs of O’Keeffe established her first public image as a sexually liberated woman. Stieglitz not only photographed her, but promoted her work at his gallery and they were later married.

A shift in O’Keeffe’s persona and art can be seen after she traveled from New York to New Mexico in 1929. Photographs of O’Keeffe in New Mexico by photographers such as Ansel Adams, John Loengard, and Todd Webb increasingly shaped a new public image of the artist – as a rugged individualist whose hard work and determination allowed her to realize herself fully as an artist and a person. She finally settled in New Mexico in 1949.

Along with photographs, the exhibition showcases examples of O’Keeffe’s paintings and works on paper that mark major moments in the development of her art: the early abstract drawings, the large-scale depictions of flowers as if seen close up, the first landscapes in New Mexico from the 1930s, and the late architectural studies of her homes at the Ghost Ranch and Abiquiu.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a catalogue published by Yale University Press featuring all the works in the exhibition and essays from Lynes and Danly. The catalogue will be available in the museum store for $29.95.


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