GEORGIA O'KEEFFE: The ""Wideness and Wonder"" of Her World by Beverly Gherman

GEORGIA O'KEEFFE: The ""Wideness and Wonder"" of Her World

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A refreshingly unsentimentalized, if somewhat scattershot, biography of O'Keeffe, probably America's foremost woman artist. Ninety-eight-year old O'Keeffe would undoubtedly have something to say about those two qualifiers--""Why 'probably' and why 'woman'?"" As Gherman points out, O'Keeffe has never been one to underestimate her own talent or to keep her opinions to herself. Young readers (especially females) are almost sure to be delighted with O'Keeffe's feistiness and her ""damn-the-torpedoes"" ambitions. Gherman's book is sprinkled with anecdotes that illustrate the painter's individualism in no-nonsense terms. There's O'Keeffe's retort when asked why she didn't sign her paintings, for example. ""Why don't you sign your face?"" she snapped. ""Georgia could be sharp and unpleasant,"" Gherman admits. Or, as one museum director pointed out, ""Georgia is easy to get along with as long as you do exactly what she wants."" Gherman is to be congratulated for refusing to prettify the portrait of her prickly subject. In other areas, the author is less successful. Cramming the events of nearly a century into a mere 70 pages presents problems. There is a frenetic quality to the narrative; decades of O'Keeffe's life pass unnoted, and important elements are scanted. O'Keeffe's 30-year relationship with her mentor/companion/husband Alfred Stieglitz is left largely unexplored. One hopes Gherman's book will prompt young readers to search out examples of O'Keeffe's works. It's there that the artist's genius is manifest, not in her waspish comments, amusing as they may be. As O'Keeffe once said, ""I have nothing more to say than what I painted."" A good introduction to an American ""feminist"" trailblazer that, despite its limitations, packs a worthwhile message. Black-and-white illustrations not seen.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1986
Publisher: Atheneum