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The Art of Georgia O'Keeffe: Filling a Space in a Beautiful Way

Evening Program

Evening Lecture/Seminar

Monday, November 9, 2020 - 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. ET
Code: 1M2103
This program is part of our
Smithsonian Associates Streaming series.
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Georgia O’Keeffe by Alfred Stieglitz, 1918


  • This program is part of our Smithsonian Associates Streaming series.
  • Platform: Zoom
  • Online registration is required.
  • If you register multiple individuals, you will be asked to supply individual names and email addresses so they can receive a Zoom link email. Please note that if there is a change in program schedule or a cancellation, we will notify you via email, and it will be your responsibility to notify other registrants in your group.

When she died in 1986 at the age of 98, Georgia O’Keeffe’s obituary appeared on the front page of the New York Times. This was rare for any artist, and unheard-of for a female painter. But she had been famous since the late 1920s, and a century later  remains an icon of American art. 

Images of O’Keeffe’s paintings are ubiquitous in popular culture, films and plays have been produced about her, and there is even a Georgia O’Keeffe beer. Collectors covet O’Keeffe’s pictures: In 2014 one of her canvases broke the auction record for a work by any woman artist, when Sotheby’s sold it for more than $44 million.

In a richly illustrated program, art historian Nancy G. Heller explores O’Keeffe’s life and artistic career, beginning with her upbringing in rural Wisconsin. Now considered synonymous with the desert Southwest, O’Keeffe didn’t become a permanent resident of her beloved New Mexico until she was in her early 60s. And although she is justly famous for pictures of sun-bleached animal bones and close-ups of flowers, O’Keeffe was fascinated by a wide variety of subjects—from Manhattan’s brand-new skyscrapers to river stones, doors, and clouds. 

While she produced some 2,000 artworks, even if O’Keeffe had never made anything after the radically spare, abstract watercolor and charcoal pieces created in 1916 and 1917, she would still have earned a prominent place in the history of American modernism.

Heller examines the influences on O’Keeffe—including  fellow artist Arthur Wesley Dow, who taught her the importance of “filling a space in a beautiful way,” and her husband, the pioneering gallerist, editor, and photographer Alfred Stieglitz. She also looks at O’Keeffe’s impact on younger artists and the American women’s movement.

Heller is a specialist on women artists and a professor at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia.

World Art History Certificate elective: Earn 1/2 credit*

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*Enrolled participants in the World Art History Certificate Program receive 1/2 elective credit. Not yet enrolled? Learn about the program, its benefits, and how to register here.