Georgia O’Keeffe was one of the most photographed women of the twentieth century. She actively participated in the creation of her own dramatic image, beginning in 1918, with the series of more than 300 photographs created by Alfred Stieglitz, the avant-garde photographer and gallerist who became her husband in 1924. After Stieglitz’s death and her move to the remote village of Abiquiu in New Mexico, important portrait photographers followed her west to picture her at home and in her studio. Her friends Ansel Adams and Todd Webb, famous for their landscapes, also composed images of O’Keeffe in the landscape. This exhibition presents a selection from the Museum’s collection of more than 2000 photographs of the artist. We are especially proud to offer the first look at the newest acquisitions purchased in 2013, photographs that span the artist’s life from New York to New Mexico, including many rarely seen images of the artist.
The Museum’s photographic archive supports our mission to preserve,present, and advance Georgia O’Keeffe’s artistic legacy. It forms a valuable record of the many ways that O’Keeffe presented herself to the camera in formal portraits as well as in the unstudied snapshots with friends and family. The newest acquisitions complement the photographs already held by the museum and include a wide range of materials such as fine art prints, copy prints, negatives, contact sheets, and documentary photographs. Many of the photographs in the exhibition have never been published or shown at the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum. For example among the images created by Stieglitz, one is famous for picturing O’Keeffe in the act of painting, while other unpublished photographs frame intimate moments at Lake George. Later pictures by Doris Bry, George Daniell, and Arnold Newman portray O’Keeffe in her New Mexico homes and in the surrounding landscape.
Since the Museum was founded in 1997, its collection of photographs has grown steadily but primarily through gifts. The largest gift of more than 1000 photographs was presented to the Museum in 2006 by the Georgia O’Keeffe Foundation. That collection, assembled by the artist during her long life, became part of her estate after her death in 1986. Similarly, the collection purchased by the Museum in 2013 is unique because O’Keeffe selected the photographs for James Johnson Sweeney, the curator of her 1946 retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art. The Museum’s photographic archive forms an invaluable record of O’Keeffe’s life in art, a creative practice that spanned the twentieth century and the rise of American Modernism.