Georgia O’Keeffe was one of the foremost practitioners of the modern art that emerged in the United States in connection with the photographer and gallery owner Alfred Stieglitz. Throughout her life she created a personal style that public and critics identified as the expression of the new native American art. O’Keeffe studied at the Art Institute of Chicago from 1905 to 1906 and at the New York Art Students League in 1907, but was forced to abandon her classes and began to work as an illustrator in Chicago. In 1911 she became a primary school art teacher, an activity she combined with attending Alon Bement’s summer courses at the University of Virginia. In 1914 she spent a few months in New York and attended the Teachers College of Columbia University. Thereafter she remained in contact with the New York avant-garde through the periodicals Camera Work and 291, published by Alfred Stieglitz, and her correspondence with Anita Pollitzer, whom she sent examples of her first abstract works on paper in 1915.
O’Keeffe held her first solo exhibition at 291 in 1917 and moved to New York soon afterwards thanks to Stieglitz’s patronage. She went to live with him in 1918 and they married in 1924. From then until 1946, the year Stieglitz died, she showed her work practically every year at his various galleries. During the 1920s Georgia O’Keeffe attained artistic maturity in a particular combination of symbolism, abstraction and interest in photography. In 1924 she produced Petunia No. 2 (Santa Fe, Peters Gallery), the first of her flower pictures in large format that soon became her most highly acclaimed works.
Shortly afterwards she started on a series of urban landscapes centered in New York City and executed her first painting of bones in 1931. In 1949 she settled permanently in Abiquiu (New Mexico), where she had spent many summers since 1929. Her works from this period were mostly reworkings of earlier ideas. During the last years of her life, in which she experimented with pottery owing to her failing eyesight, she received numerous awards and many exhibitions were staged in her honour.