© 2023 Cincinnati Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Cincinnati Art Museum exhibition sheds new light on Georgia O'Keeffe

Webb-Georgia O'Keeffe with Camera (EX_2021_GO_132).jpg
Provided by Cincinnati Art Museum
Todd Webb, Georgia O’Keeffe with Camera, 1959, printed later, inkjet print, Todd Webb Archive. © Todd Webb Archive, Portland, Maine, USA

You almost certainly know the work of Georgia O'Keeffe — paintings of skulls, flowers and other objects simplified to their essence with deft treatment of light. But you might not know she was also devoted to photography.

The Cincinnati Art Museum's Georgia O'Keeffe, Photographer, explores the artist's long fascination with photography, which began with Kodak's first mass-market "Brownie" cameras early in her life. It also goes into depth about her friendship with photographer Todd Webb and other artists who influenced her.

RELATED: A portrait has been found underneath 157-year-old Cézanne still life at Cincinnati Art Museum

Cincinnati Art Museum Curator of Photography Nathaniel Stein says her work with a camera presents another angle by which to think about her art.

"It is a new insight on Georgia O'Keeffe, which is not something we get every day," he says. "We have had exhibitions that look at her painting, her clothes, the way she decorated her home and pretty much everything else about her. We didn't know she was a photographer and it is amazing to see this fundamentally important 20th century American artist in a new way."

The more than 100 photographs, paintings, drawings and personal items sometimes even provide glimpses into personal sides of O'Keeffe — photos of her beloved dogs are formal studies of light and form, but also show something about the artist her paintings never revealed. Above all, though, the captivating black and white photos reveal another layer of O'Keeffe's obsessions with light, form and the Southwestern desert found in the paintings that made her famous.

RELATED: The mystery of the Cincinnati Art Museum's ancient horse sculpture, solved

"I think it's really important that people understand that her photographs were not made in service of the paintings," Stein says. "She wasn't photographing things in order to paint them later. She was exploring this fundamental interest in form and composition."

Georgia O'Keeffe, Photographer opens Feb. 4 and runs through May 7.

Nick Swartsell is a general assignment reporter for WVXU. Before his current role, he worked on the station’s Cincinnati Edition program as assistant producer and was a journalist for outlets in Cincinnati, Washington, D.C., and Texas prior to that. When he’s not reporting, he likes exploring places he probably shouldn’t on his bike, taking photos, and growing corn, tomatoes and peppers that are, in all honesty, much too hot for any practical use. He is from Hamilton. You can find him at @nswartsell on Twitter.