An icon of twentieth-century art, Georgia O’Keeffe (1887–1986) embodied her signature aesthetic in every aspect of her self-presentation. “Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern” presents paintings alongside photographic portraits, clothing, and other personal effects to reveal O’Keeffe’s carefully crafted style and public persona. Organized chronologically, the exhibition introduces O’Keeffe as a teenager through photographs and paintings from her school days. From a young age, the difference between O’Keeffe and her peers is striking. In her yearbook, the obstinate O’Keeffe opted for braids, while her schoolmates wore elaborate Gibson Girl updos. Throughout her life, O’Keeffe went against popular fashions, choosing masculine, no-frills styles. Examples of her black-and-white outfits, many of which she sewed herself, are displayed beside formally related paintings, evincing an ascetic but highly elegant presence.
The bulk of the exhibition consists of portraits taken by O’Keeffe’s longtime partner Alfred Stieglitz, who had a near monopoly on images of her for the thirty-plus years they were together. The gorgeously striking photographs show O’Keeffe in the nude, or borrowing Stieglitz’s dramatic black cape. The artist always posed willfully, and appears larger-than-life, due both to Stieglitz’s talent and O’Keeffe’s self-possession. The show concludes with O’Keeffe’s later years in New Mexico, where she adopted blue jeans and simple wrap dresses. A younger generation of photographers—including Bruce Weber and Annie Leibovitz—captured her there, and she allowed magazines like Vogue to shoot editorials in her adobe home, which, of course, she decorated herself. Until the end, O’Keeffe brought artistry to every aspect of her enthralling life. —Julia Wolkoff
Pictured: Alfred Stieglitz: Georgia O’Keeffe, Prospect Mountain, Lake George, 1927, gelatin silver print, 4â? by 3â? inches. © Board of Trustees, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.