Friday, February 11, 2022

O'Keeffe & Stieglitz An American Romance by Benita Eisler

For the past month or so, I have been quite entertained by this biography. Written in 1992, it is full of endless details and sometimes cutting comments about the subjects' behaviour.


Because Steiglitz had his renowned gallery 291 and later The Place, Alfred and Georgia knew and interacted with many artists, collectors, critics and society figures.  The names are so familiar:  Charles Demuth, Ansel Adams, Paul Strand, Florine Stettheimer, Mabel Dodge Luhan, it goes on and on; they seemed to know everybody, wealthy and not.  

One artist that I was inspired by, John Marin, was a good friend of theirs.  I always wanted to see more of the actual paintings and drawings that he created; they were full of energy and life.  But it was curious to hear about him as a human being with the flaws and ups and downs in his relationship with them.

O'Keefe and Stieglitz were brilliant artists, and brilliant marketers, but they were not brilliant in interacting with each other or with their friends.  Living at a time when people wrote letters, there is quite a record of their thoughts and behaviours, not only through their own letters but also through the letters of others.  The author doesn't hesitate to note how nasty and even cruel they could be, the both of them, on occasion when interacting with each other and their friends and acquaintances.

While reading, I dug out an old coffee table book that had reproductions of Georgia's work.  I hadn't really looked at any of her paintings for a long time.  What surprised me was that I liked them more than I remembered; but however I was unsettled that my recent floral inspirations may have been influenced by what I saw so many years ago.  

Georgia O'Keeffe, 'Black Iris', 36x30", 1926

Me, 'Canna Lily', 42x42", 2019

They worked hard, all their life, and saw the rewards for that, Georgia more than Alfred at the end.  When he died, he was quite hard up.  Georgia being younger had more time to produce paintings and lived long enough to become a very rich woman.