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Georgia O’Keeffe Biography for Kids

Image of painting of a mountain and across it is an orange rectangle across the top of the picture. In the orange rectangle are the words "Georgia O'Keeffe Biography for Kids." Below are two more paintings of Georgia O'Keeffe: two large orange poppies and a cow skull with blue, white, and red around it. There is also a black and white photo of a woman with black hair and a black shirt - this is Georgia O'Keeffe.

Hello, children, I am Georgia O’Keeffe. 

Black and white photograph of serious looking woman with her black hair pulled back and wearing a black top with a v-neck. This is the artist Georgia O'Keeffe.
Georgia O’Keeffe

I am an American modern realist painter of the Precisionist movement who is best known for my large close-up paintings of flowers…

Large closeup painting of a red poppy. This is called Red Poppy by Georgia O'Keeffe.
Red Poppy 1927 by Georgia O’Keeffe (Fair Use)

…and my paintings of the New Mexico landscape.

Painting is greens, browns and pinks of a landscape of a dark green flat top mountain with pink rock outcroppings and a green field in the foreground with small green shrubs and a pink rock formation. This painting is called My Front Yard, Summer by Georgia O'Keeffe.
My Front Yard, Summer 1941 by Georgia O’Keeffe (Fair Use)

I was born in 1887 in Wisconsin.

Map of eastern United States with states in white except for Wisconsin which is grey and labeled in red.

From an early age, I noticed colors, patterns and light. My father taught me to notice how changes in seasons changed the way the land and sky looked.

Painting of blue and green patterns on a dark background. This is called Blue and Green Music by Georgia O'Keeffe.
Blue and Green Music 1921 by Georgia O’Keeffe (Public Domain)
Painting in reds and pinks and yellow of a yellow half circle (the sun) on the horizon with layers of red and pink around it to create a sunrise image. This is called Sunrise by Georgia O'Keeffe.
Sunrise 1916 by Georgia O’Keeffe (Public Domain)

Though I attended school in a one-room schoolhouse, I also took art lessons in town. I learned to copy other artists’ works, which is a good way to start, but I grew tired of this and wanted to paint my own pictures. 

By 8th grade, I knew I wanted to be an artist, and I wanted to be famous. When my family moved to Williamsburg, Virginia when I was 15, I attended Chatham Hall Episcopal Institute and was a serious artist. The other girls though I acted like a queen of the studio, but I told them: “I am going to live a different life from you girls. I am going to give up everything for my art.”

Black and white photograph of a young lady with black hair styled on top of her head and wearing a white blouse with black stripes running vertically on the blouse. This is a photo of Georgia O'Keeffe.
Georgia O’Keeffe as a University of Virginia assistant

Though serious about my art, I have a mischievous fun side, and I enjoyed practical jokes and drawing caricatures with my classmates. I often tried to bend or break the rules, and I became editor of the school yearbook. 

Black and white photo of a middle-aged woman with black hair pulled back and a white shirt with a short sleeved black jacket on over it. She has a slight smile on her face. This is Georgia O'Keeffe.
Georgia O’Keeffe
Black and white photo of a young man in a white t-shirt on a motorcycle with an older woman in a short-sleeved blouse with jeans rolled up to her knees and wearing a cycling hat and goggles on top of her head. This is the artist Georgia O'Keeffe.
Georgia O’Keeffe

At the end of my two years at Chatham, I burned many of my watercolors and drawings because when I became famous, I didn’t want anyone to see my early failures.

I went on to take classes at the Art Institute of Chicago where the human figure was emphasized, but I did not enjoy portraits. After becoming ill, I did not return to Chicago, but I enrolled at the Art Students League in New York City and learned to paint still life.

Painting of nine apples in reds, yellows and oranges. This is called Apple Family II by Georgia O'Keeffe.
Apple Family II 1920 by Georgia O’Keeffe (Public Domain)

One day, I went to a gallery called 291 to see an exhibit of Auguste Rodin. My life changed that day, for I met the owner of 291, Alfred Stieglitz, who was a famous artist and photographer.

Black and white photo of a man with black longish hair and a moustache in a black jacket sitting sideways and looking directly at the viewer. This is a photo of Alfred Stieglitz.
Alfred Stieglitz

He pushed my view of modern art and seemed to have a vision about which new art had true value. He admired me, and several years later, without my permission, he displayed at his studio some of my charcoals that my friend had shown him in an exhibit called “A Woman on Paper”.

Black and white drawing using charcoal of round shapes in the center with wavy vertical lines on the left side and jagged lines on the left side of the round shapes. This is called Drawing XIII by Georgia O'Keeffe.
Drawing XIII 1915 by Georgia O’Keeffe (Public Domain)

In the meantime, I had run out of money to live in New York, so I lived again in Chicago with my aunt and worked as an illustrator. 

Then I taught art in Amarillo, Texas, my first exposure to the Wild West, which I fell in love with. I continued my studies at Columbia Teachers College in New York, then taught art at a college in Columbia, SC.

Eventually, my relationship with Alfred Stieglitz grew, and we married in 1924. I did not take the married name of Stieglitz because I wished to maintain my own identity and independence.

Black and white photo of an older man with longish grey hair and a moustache wearing glasses, a black suit with a vest and tie leaning towards a woman with black hair pulled up and wearing a long-sleeved blouse with a black vest and black skirt.
Stieglitz and O’Keeffe

In fact, though we lived together in New York City in the winters… 

Painting of a tall brown building/skyscraper with lots of grey windows. This is called Shelton Hotel New York No. 1 by Georgia O'Keeffe.
Shelton Hotel New York No. 1 1926 by Georgia O’Keeffe (Fair Use)

…and at Lake George in the summers…

Painting of outlines of blue and greyish mountains with a horizon and mirror image of the mountains as a reflection in a lake. This is called Lake George by Georgia O'Keeffe.
Lake George 1922 by Georgia O’Keeffe (Public Domain)
Painting of a reddish brown house with one window facing the front and a door on the side. In the foreground are yellow plants and in the background is a green mountain, green trees and blue sky with grey and white clouds. This is called My Shanty, Lake George by Georgia O'Keeffe.
My Shanty, Lake George 1922 by Georgia O’Keeffe (Public Domain)
Painting of reddish orange mountains in the background with a blueish lake in the center and reddish orange and yellow trees in the foreground. This is called Lake George, Autumn by Georgia O'Keeffe.
Lake George, Autumn 1927 by Georgia O’Keeffe (Fair Use)

…after 1929, I began to spend my summers in New Mexico apart from Alfred. I eventually bought a place called Ghost Ranch where I lived after Alfred died.

Photo of an adobe house with barren ground and a few green shrubs in front with a unique reddish rock formation behinc it.
Ghost Ranch

While living in New York City, I liked to paint views of the city…

Painting in dark colors of skyscrapers at night that appear black with white lit windows. This is called Radiator Building - Night, New York by Georgia O'Keeffe.
Radiator Building – Night, New York 1927 by Georgia O’Keeffe (Fair Use)

…Brooklyn Bridge…

Painting of two arches of a bridge. This is called Brooklyn Bridge by Georgia O'Keeffe.
Brooklyn Bridge 1949 by Georgia O’Keeffe (Fair Use)

…and the Hudson River.

Painting of city buildings and factory smokestacks on either side of a river. This is called East River from the Thirtieth Story of the Shelton Hotel by Georgia O'Keeffe.
East River from the Thirtieth Story of the Shelton Hotel 1928 by Georgia O’Keeffe (Fair Use)

Since city life moves fast, I also wanted people to be able to stop and look at nature, so I began to paint large close-up pictures of flowers.

Painting of a large red canna with a blue and yellow background. This is called Red Canna by Georgia O'Keeffe.
Red Canna 1919 by Georgia O’Keeffe (Public Domain)
Painting of a large close-up white flower. This is called Jimson Weed by Georgia O'Keeffe.
Jimson Weed by Georgia O’Keeffe (Fair Use)

Later, inspired by the New Mexico landscape, I painted the southwestern churches, hills, and bleached bones and skulls I found in the desert.

Painting of pinkish-red hills in the foreground with a purplish-grey mountain behind them with a flat top. This is called Red Hills and Pedernal by Georgia O'Keeffe.
Red Hills and Pedernal 1936 by Georgia O’Keeffe (Fair Use)
Painting of large close-up ram's skull with a white flower with grey clouds behind above brown mountains. This is called Ram's Head with Hollyhock by Georgia O'Keeffe.
Ram’s Head with Hollyhock 1935 by Georgia O’Keeffe (Fair Use)

By 1945, I had achieved my dream of becoming a famous artist. Exhibits of my work opened at the Chicago Institute of Art, and the next year at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. 

Alfred died in 1946, and I moved permanently to New Mexico in 1949. Though I had dreamed of being a famous artist, I preferred to stay out of the public eye and be alone. People can be such an annoying bother. I like to live simply and wear black.

Black and white photo of woman in a black cape and black hat. This is the artist Georgia O'Keeffe.
Georgia O’Keeffe

In 1971, I won the Gold Medal for Painting from the National Institute of Arts and Letters, and in 1977, I won the Presidential Medal of Freedom. 

You can see my art at a special Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico or at the other large institutions in New York and Washington D.C.

Photo of an adobe building with a brown iron gate and a poster of a giant white flower. This is the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe.

Here’s what you should remember about me. 

  • I am Georgia O’Keeffe.
  • I lived from 1887 to 1986.
  • I am a woman who dedicated her life to her art.
  • I was married to Alfred Stieglitz.
  • I painted in the American Modern Realism and Precisionist movements.
  • I am known also for my paintings of giant close-up flowers, New York buildings, and New Mexico landscapes.

Investigate the life and art works of Georgia O’Keeffe in this artist unit study!

Image of a mockup of a computer screen with the image of a woman with black hair and a black top.  This is next to green swatches of paint and the words Investigating Georgia O'Keeffe. In front of the computer screen are pages from the unit study and two sprial bound books. Next to the spiral books are an arrow and the words on the left side which say Teacher Notes and an arrow and the words on the right side which say Student Activity Pack.

Watch the video about me too!

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