Form and Content
Georgia O’Keeffe is a unique autobiography—as unique as the artist herself. The work, which is not divided into chapters, presents beautiful, full-color reproductions of the paintings that O’Keeffe chose to represent her life’s work (many of which had never before been reproduced). These illustrations are accompanied by a narrative that unobtrusively weaves in and out of the reproductions. In this oversized volume, O’Keeffe supervised the design, chose the 108 color plates, and wrote approximately forty pages of narrative. At the end of the work is a list of the illustrations and a chronology.
O’Keeffe’s work begins with a narrative account of the development of the artist as a young woman. After describing her first sensory recollections of the world around her, the first colors and shapes that she encountered, O’Keeffe traces the growth of her sense of the visual and tactile throughout her childhood. It is not until adolescence, however, that she believes that she has produced a fully realized work of art. It is this work that she chooses to present first in the volume.
Following this introduction to her first work, the text provides a running commentary on the paintings that she chooses to present, offering insights on those forces that surrounded and shaped O’Keeffe’s artistic choices in each of the works from her student art days, her discovery by Alfred Stieglitz, and her days in Taos, New Mexico. The last illustration in the book is a photograph of a regal-looking O’Keeffe in her studio in 1972, when she was eighty-five years old.
In contrast to more standard autobiographical works in which ego plays a large role, O’Keeffe’s work offers an unusual perspective. As she states, “Where I was born and where and how I have lived is unimportant. It is what I have done with where I have been that should be of interest.” Consequently, very few names and dates are mentioned in the text. This book is a portrait of the colors of O’Keeffe’s artistic life presented primarily through the works of art themselves—but also through the descriptions of the thoughts and feelings that inspired those works, what she tried to achieve in each of the paintings, and what she hoped to instill in those who viewed the work.