It was all going so well. O’Keefe had found someone who appreciated her radically abstract drawings and watercolors–and that someone was none other than Alfred Stieglitz, avant garder owner of 291 Gallery and photographer. In 1918, she moved into his niece’s loft in New York city. They were in love, despite an age difference and Stieglitz’s marriage.
Stieglitz began taking nude portraits of O’Keefe, some of which are on view at the Whitney’s O’Keefe exhibition. His wife walked in on a session (some people think he arranged it so that he would not have to confront her with his affair). Either way, she got the idea and got a divorce. O’Keefe and Stieglitz married, and most of his nude photographs of her date from the early days of their marriage.
These beautiful and passionate photographs are some of the most expensive photographs sold at auction. The treatment of O’Keefe’s hands is especially nice.
These photographs became a sensation when they were known, making O’Keefe’s name recognizable. Unfortunately for O’Keefe, Steiglitz showed these works before he showed her own abstract canvases. Her critical reception became that of an emancipated woman making art about sex because of the photographs as much as the suggestiveness of the paintings.
O’Keefe began to moor her work in recognizable objects to defend against such limiting criticism. And she never let herself be photographed nude again.
Part of the Whitney Museum’s Georgia O’Keefe exhibition on view through January 7, 2010.