Georgia O'Keeffe Critical Essays

Beverly Gherman


(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

Gherman describes O’Keeffe with acceptance and understanding, and the author’s admiration for O’Keeffe’s strength of character is obvious throughout the book. One of the outstanding qualities of O’Keeffe, according to Gherman, was her love of solitude, a trait that became obvious when the artist was a child. Instead of playing with her siblings, O’Keeffe played with her china dolls underneath her favorite trees. Sunlight was also a favorite companion. In later life, O’Keeffe remarked that “if only people were trees, I might like them better.”

O’Keeffe’s disinterest in people was also obvious in her art. Although she sketched several teachers for her yearbook at Chatham Episcopal Institute, the girls’ boarding school that she attended, she did not enjoy drawing nude male models when she took drawing at the Art Institute in Chicago. In her later work, she concentrated on flowers, landscapes, and other natural forms.

Gherman stresses that, even though O’Keeffe preferred solitude, she was popular with her classmates throughout her school years and had good relationships with her teachers, family, and friends. She simply knew that she had to put her painting first in order to produce authentic work. She contrasted markedly to her husband, Stieglitz, who spent most of his time talking to people. Gherman stresses her point about O’Keeffe’s love of solitude by choosing to illustrate the book with only one photograph of anyone other than her subject: It is a portrait of Stieglitz, who is shown with O’Keeffe.

Related to O’Keeffe’s love of solitude were her independence and self-reliance, according to Gherman’s point of view. At the age of twenty-eight, O’Keeffe received a proposal from a young professor. Although she was tempted by financial security, she finally decided to refuse the offer, even though her refusal made her feel lonely and depressed. She had thought about how busy her mother had been rearing a family...

(The entire section is 810 words.)