Have you ever heard of the painting ‘Jimson Weed/ White Flower No.1 1932’? No? Well, if you fancy yourself as something of an arty type, maybe you should have. Because, having been sold for a cool £28million to Walmart heiress Alice Walton, it’s the most expensive artwork ever produced by a woman, namely American painter Georgia O’Keeffe.
Although little talked about outside the US and especially outside art circles, O’Keeffe is a genuine American icon and a pioneer of modernism in fine art; she’s especially celebrated for her beguiling, magnified paintings of flowers and animal skulls, as well as those of the landscapes of her home nation – everything from her patterns of futuristic New York urbanity to her remote yet vivid recreations of New Mexico vistas. Making her artistic debut in 1916, she was immediately recognised as a trailblazer, the similarity between certain flowers and the female form holding a particular fascination for her and something she’d devote a fair amount of her output to.
Given her standing in the art world, surprisingly there hasn’t been a major retrospective of her work in the UK for at least 20 years. Until now, that is. For, currently running at the Tate Modern gallery on the South Bank of the Thames, ‘Georgia O’Keeffe’ has been one of the most essential London exhibitions this summer. And, with no other O’Keeffe works in any UK public collection at present, the Tate Modern Georgia O’Keeffe exhibition is an unmissable occasion to familiarise yourself with this most unique and significant artist – and her art – before it ends on 30 October this year. Not least if you’re visiting the UK capital and staying at the Montcalm At The Brewery London City, from which the Tate Modern is merely a short hop across The City and the river.
No question, the highlight of the exhibition is the aforementioned ‘Jimson Weed/ White Flower No.1 1932’, but it’s also crammed with many other special gems from O’Keeffe’s 60-year-spanning back catalogue; in fact, in total there’s more than 100 works on show. Some are beautiful, others curious and intriguing, while others are provocative and others still familiar; in all though they combine to demonstrate how the artist transitioned through her career from abstraction work in early years to figurative paintings later on.
Speaking of herself and how she’s perceived, O’Keeffe once remarked she was often referred to as the ‘best woman painter’, but felt she ought to be referred to simply as ‘one of the best painters’. After making the most of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to catch so much – or, in fact, any – of her work outside the United States, you might well agree with that assessment, having had the chance to view the beauty and remarkable skill of her paintings yourself.