.. the country. She took a leave of absence from the teaching job and later resigned. It’s possible that there was pressure from the community to encourage her resignation. One good reason was for what people called “radical views”, which she had concerning the United States’ entry into the war in Europe along with other rebel opinions that were shocking to the small Texas town.
She was encouraged by Stieglitz to return to New York. By this time he had fallen in love with O’Keeffe and wanted to pursue a relationship. He being in an unhappy marriage, had moved out from the family home and into his studio. She boarded a train in June of 1918 to return to New York, Stieglitz, and to a new life that would make her into one of the most important artist of the century. Shortly after her arrival, Alfred took Georgia up to the Stieglitz family home at Lake George in the Adirondack Mountains.
They would return to the lake home each summer for years to come. Georgia produced many paintings of the Lake George countryside during these years. Stieglitz was Georgia’s most avid supporter. He arranging shows, and sold her paintings. Buying an “O’Keeffe” was not only expensive, but a collector needed to meet Stieglitz’s somewhat hazy standards for owning one.
By this time she was known only as “O’Keeffe” to the art world. She rarely signed a painting, but instead would sometimes print an “OK” on the back of the canvas. Alfred’s wife divorced him in September 1924 and he began to press O’Keeffe into marriage. She was reluctant to do so since they had lived together since 1918 and had survived the scandal, seeing no reason to marry now. She finally gave in and they married late in December. During the long winter months in New York she began to paint her very large flowers, some of her most popular work today.
She completed her first enormous flower painting in 1924. The giant flower paintings were first exhibited in 1925. A Calla Lily painting would sell for $25,000 in 1928 and had drawn media attention to “O’Keeffe” like never before. O’Keeffe’s financial success would finally prove to her that an artist could make a living with a paintbrush. In 1925 she and Stieglitz moved to the Shelton Hotel in New York, taking an apartment on the 30th floor of the new building. They would live here for 12 years.
With such a spectacular view, Georgia began to paint the city. By 1928 O’Keeffe began to feel the need to travel and to find other sources for painting. The demands of an annual show needed new material. Friends returning from the West with stories stimulated Georgia’s desire to see and explore new places. Alfred had no desire to leave New York and Lake George..he hated change of any type. In May of 1929, Georgia would set out by train with her friend, Beck Strand, to Taos, New Mexico..a trip that would forever change her life. Georgia found that the thin, dry air enabled her to see farther and at times could see several approaching thunderstorms in the distance at once.
She affectionately referred to the land of northern New Mexico as “the faraway”, better defined as a place of stark beauty and infinite space. Soon after their arrival, Georgia and Beck where invited to stay at Mable Dodge Luhan’s ranch outside of Taos for the summer. She would go on many backpacking trips exploring the rugged mountains and deserts of the region. On one trip she visited the D.H. Lawrence ranch and spent several weeks there.
While in Taos she visited the historical mission church at Ranchos de Taos. Although she painted the church as many artists had done before, her painting of only a fragment of the mission wall silhouetted against the dark blue sky would portray it as no artist had before. “..I often painted fragments of things because it seemed to make my statement as well as or better than the whole could..I had to create an equivalent for what I felt about what I was looking at..not copy it.” Being a loner, Georgia wanted to explore this wonderful place on her own. She bought a Model A Ford and asked others to teach her how to drive. After one particularly exasperating moment, one of her teachers declared that she was unable to learn the art of driving. Only her determination was to lead to mastering her machine. In her yearly visits to New Mexico she would travel the back roads in the Model A ford. O’Keeffe remodeled her vehicle. She removed the backseat, and would unbolt the front seat, and turned it around so that she could prop her canvas against the back wall of the car.
Georgia would return to New Mexico, which she considered “her land”, each summer until Stieglitz’s death in 1946. O’Keeffe spent three years in the city settling his estate. In 1949 at the of age 62, she made New Mexico her permanent residence. She dividing her time between her summer home at Ghost Ranch and an adobe house she had renovated in the historic village of Abiquiu. O’Keeffe traveled internationally, painted and continued to enjoy her status as a supreme American artist.
To add to her accomplishments, in 1977, she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Gerald R. Ford. The final days of O’Keeffe’s life were spent in her home. She was well into her 90’s and was tired with life. One friend stated that when visiting her had asking of her current condition, O’Keeffe stated “it’s time for me to go.”. By this time she had lost most of her sight, and could only hold onto her art by sculpting and working with ceramics.
However the results were unsatisfactory to her. As her health began to fail, many people remarked at her solid grasp on reality, and her calm peace of mind. She would not make it to her 100th birthday, she died on March 7, 1986, shortly after entering a Santa Fe hospital. She was 98.