ANDOVER — A trio of Georgia O’Keeffe-related exhibits will take center stage at the Addison Gallery of American Art later this month, highlighting a relatively unknown facet of the famed American painter.
Praised for revolutionary paintings of flowers, the American Southwest and buildings, O’Keeffe was one of the leading figures of the art movement referred to as American Modernism who embraced photography as a medium as well.
Married to photographer and modern art promoter Alfred Stieglitz, she was surrounded by photography for years, often serving as a subject for her husband and other photographers. She sat for hundreds of Stieglitz’s portraits, assisted in the printing and mounting of his prints, and even helped in the design of his shows.
Only after the death of Stieglitz in 1946 did O’Keeffe embrace photography as a medium of her own artistic expression, focusing on her surroundings in northern New Mexico — often capturing the same subjects on black and white film she had painted years before.
In February, the Addison Gallery of American Art will present “Georgia O’Keeffe, Photographer,” the first exhibition devoted to a largely unheralded aspect of the artist’s practice.
While O’Keeffe is acclaimed for her paintings, her black and white photography was an essential expression of her artistic vision. Reframing views through the lens of her camera, O’Keeffe saw her environment as an array of possible shapes and forms.
“Georgia O’Keeffe, Photographer” features nearly 100 rarely seen photographs from a previously unstudied archive, alongside with a selection of her paintings and drawings.
“As a museum that has championed photography since our founding nearly a century ago, we are particularly excited to explore O’Keeffe’s work through this new lens,” said Allison Kemmerer, the Mary Stripp and R. Crosby Kemper director of the Addison Gallery of American Art.
“The depth of our collection gives us the opportunity to draw on our holdings to give a deeper perspective on O’Keeffe’s early career—as well as the ideas and influences that inspired her throughout her life—and share fresh insights on her achievements.”
To accompany the “Georgia O’Keeffe, Photographer” exhibit, the Addison will present two complementary exhibitions offering insight and context for a deeper exploration of O’Keeffe’s work.
“Arthur Wesley Dow: Nearest to the Divine,” organized by the Addison’s Robert M. Walker associate curator of American Art Gordon Wilkins, will include photographs, prints, and paintings by the influential artist and educator Arthur Wesley Dow, who instructed O’Keeffe during her time at Teachers College, Columbia University.
The exhibition, drawn from the museum’s George and Barbara Wright Collection by Dow, will showcase his work and items collected on his global travels, most significantly to Japan, as well as his pioneering theories of composition that influenced O’Keeffe.
Dow’s radical approach to artmaking, with its emphasis on channeling emotion and personal vision through the “the trinity of power” inherent in harmonious design — line, the balance of dark and light, and color rather than faithful representation — flavors the works on view and was a transformative force in O’Keeffe’s art throughout her life.
Also on display will be “What Next?” Camera Work and 291 Magazine, organized by the Addison’s Charles H. Sawyer Curatorial Fellow Tessa Hite, that features photogravures from the deluxe photography journal Camera Work, as well as avant-garde drawings and visual poems published in 291 magazine.
Stieglitz launched Camera Work (1903–1917) to promote photography as a fine art, and during the course of its print run, the photographs featured shifted in style from soft-focused pictorialism to a more hard-edged modernist approach. With its daring design, 291 magazine (1915–1916)—created by Marius de Zayas, Agnes Ernst Meyer, and Paul Haviland, and financially backed by Stieglitz—was a vehicle for international artists to experiment and collaborate. Issues of both publications were donated to the Addison by Georgia O’Keeffe and Elizabeth Davidson in 1953.