Form and Content

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

In Portrait of an Artist: A Biography of Georgia O’Keeffe, Laurie Lisle provides young adult readers with an intimate look at the personality of the very private O’Keeffe. The book functions as a chronicle of O’Keeffe’s life, beginning with her parents, Ida Totto and Francis Calixtus O’Keeffe, and their forebears in the farmlands of Wisconsin. The biography’s structure parallels the chronology of O’Keeffe’s life: from the family farm in Wisconsin to Virginia, where they had moved, to Texas, where she worked as a teacher, and then back and forth across the country between the New York homes that she shared with her husband, photographic artist Alfred Stieglitz, and her home in New Mexico, where she took up permanent residence after his death.

This book narrates O’Keeffe’s life from a fairly objective third-person point of view and is based on a vast compendium of sources that Lisle acquired during her research. Because O’Keeffe was so reclusive and refused to grant interviews, Lisle was unable to include any firsthand information in her biography; in fact, O’Keeffe refused to authorize the undertaking. Nevertheless, Lisle did talk extensively with friends and relatives of O’Keeffe, and she includes much information gained from these sources, some of whom preferred to remain anonymous.

Lisle’s biography also offers readers O’Keeffe’s own words on a variety of subjects, principally regarding her...

(The entire section is 500 words.)