Georgia O’Keeffe – Centre Pompidou

Georgia O’Keeffe was an American artist that was and still is unique in the world of Art! After all, in a time where women could not vote in the United States, Georgia O’Keeffe wanted to be called “just artist” and not “a woman artist” as many wanted to call her.

In two words:

“Women can only create babies, say Scientifics, but I say that they can produce Art, and Georgia O’Keeffe is the proof”

I first heard of Georgia O’Keeffe back in 1998, when a colleague of mine talked to me about her. I looked up to see her paintings on the Internet and I was stunned by the color she was using! Her colors were so beautiful! Even me who knew nothing about Art was so profoundly touched by her colors because they were so warm and touched me straight to the heart! Even poorly reproductions on the Internet! So since then, I wanted to have the opportunity to see real paintings of hers, and some years ago, I almost got on a train to Grenoble, to the first exhibition of hers in France, but I finally did not manage to be there because the trip was very expensive :-( I bought the exhibition catalogue as a consolation! So, when I heard that there will be an exhibitions of hers in Paris, I was thrilled! Finally, I could get the chance and see some real work of hers for the first time (!), so I went to Centre Pompidou to see the exhibition! And this time colors were so vivid, and shapes were so much more fearless than those I had seen in books! It’s was really beautiful!

Georgia O’Keeffe is famous for her flowers. Her flowers are made in close-ups with fearless shapes (like swords) and with vivid confrontations of colors that make them almost instantly noticeable, even more back then, at the time they were painted (first exposed in public in 1924). It’s funny but at the time they were painted, critics (mostly men?) had seen sexual connotations at her work (huge female genitals) and were referring to Freud, a thing that Georgia O’Keeffe refused and she was even offended! For her, flowers in close-up would have gain the attention of the viewer and would have pushed him/her to show these flowers (which are small usually) the attention they worth. As she said “I made things in a way that you would have taken the time to contemplate what I saw, and would have taken the time to pay attention to my flower and project all these ideas that these flowers inspire you, and you would have written with regards to my flowers as if they were yours – but this is not the case”. I also believe that Georgia O’Keeffe is right because I have never thought of flowers, small or big, as being “women’s genitals”! For me, the shape of Georgia’s O’Keeffe flowers look more like fearless swords, and this connotation is by far more interesting and surprising, because it’s difficult to draw and paint flowers, which are delicate and fragile, with swords!

Georgia O Keeffe - Abstraction White, 1927
Georgia O Keeffe - Abstraction White, 1927
Georgia O Keeffe - Jimson Weed/White Flower No.1
Georgia O Keeffe - Jimson Weed/White Flower No.1, 1932

Georgia O’Keeffe got the idea to make the flowers in close-ups maybe also because she was surrounded by photographers (thanks to her companion and husband Alfred Stieglitz) who at that time were playing with close-ups! By painting her flowers in close-ups, she managed to transform a womanish activity “painting flowers” to a completely unique and personal statement! While watching her paintings I thought that it’s a pity that the size of the canvas is relatively small but at the time those painting were paint the size of the canvas was still relatively small in general, years later the dimensions changed!

Georgia O Keeffe - Grey, Blue and Black - Pink Circle
Georgia O Keeffe - Grey, Blue and Black - Pink Circle, 1929

Theexhibition is very beautiful, and we finally get a glimpse of Georgia’s O’Keeffe work in Paris! She worth it! It’s just that placing the works in the exhibition hall was a bit chaotic, but regardless of that, I will try to go back at another time slot, hoping to be with a fewer crowd!

Bien à vous,

Practical Information 
Until the 6th of December 2021

Interesting book
Collectif, L’instinct moderne. Ecrits sur Georgie O’Keeffe, Editions du Centre Pompidou, Paris, 2021

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