An expert’s guide to Georgia O’Keeffe: five must-read books on the American painter

All you ever wanted to know about O’Keeffe, including a comprehensive biography, the artist’s “perfect” novice recipe book, and her letters to photographer Alfred Stieglitz—selected by the curator Theodora Vischer

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Georgia O’Keeffe Courtesy Alfred Stieglitz Collection/Bridgeman Images

Georgia O’Keeffe Courtesy Alfred Stieglitz Collection/Bridgeman Images

“O’Keeffe had exquisite and great taste, and I can see why she became a fashion icon during her lifetime”

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When the American artist Georgia O’Keeffe died in 1986, aged 98, she was feted by the New York Times as the “undisputed doyenne of American painting”. Although famed for her flower paintings, she also lived among, and painted, some of the country’s most emblematic landscapes—from the skyscrapers of New York to the deserts of New Mexico.

A major exhibition of O’Keeffe’s work opens this month at the Fondation Beyeler near Basel and the museum’s chief curator, Theodora Vischer, has selected five books that bring to life her varied career.

Georgia O’Keeffe: A Life (1989) by Roxana Robinson

Georgia O’Keeffe: A Life (1989) by Roxana Robinson

“Roxana Robinson’s comprehensive biography gives a vivid account of O’Keeffe’s remarkable artistic career. Robinson recounts the artist’s long life in great detail, which, though most commonly associated with the American Southwest, played out in so many different places throughout the United States.”

Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern (2017) by Wanda M. Corn

Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern (2017) by Wanda M. Corn

“O’Keeffe’s art and way of life was shaped by a Modernist aesthetic. This is reflected in her wardrobe, as well as the design and furnishings of her two homes in New Mexico. Wanda Corn has researched this decisive unity between art and life and presents her findings in this brilliant, richly illustrated catalogue.”

My Faraway One: Selected Letters of Georgia O’Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz, Vol. 1, 1915-1933 (2011) by Sarah Greenough

My Faraway One: Selected Letters of Georgia O’Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz, Vol. 1, 1915-1933 (2011) by Sarah Greenough

“O’Keeffe was a prolific letter writer and her extensive correspondence with Alfred Stieglitz offers an intimate insight into her relationship with the photographer who was her greatest supporter and later became her husband. The letters testify to the deep bond between the two, as they inspired each other.”

Georgia O’Keeffe’s Wartime Texas Letters (2020) by Amy von Lintel

Georgia O’Keeffe’s Wartime Texas Letters (2020) by Amy von Lintel

“This book features O’Keeffe’s letters written over two years, while working as an art teacher in Canyon, Texas. They are mostly addressed to Stieglitz and are accompanied by excellent commentary. In this entertaining read, I came to know a young, vibrant woman discovering her voice, participating in all that is happening [around her].”

A Painter’s Kitchen. Recipes from the Kitchen of Georgia O’Keeffe, New Edition (2009) by Margaret Wood

A Painter’s Kitchen. Recipes from the Kitchen of Georgia O’Keeffe, New Edition (2009) by Margaret Wood

“When O’Keeffe moved to New Mexico, she grew a vegetable garden at her home. I have come across several cookbooks devoted to O’Keeffe’s cuisine, but this recently republished book, written by her personal chef, is the most authentic. The recipes, based on homegrown or otherwise local foods, are simple, tasty and look lovely when plated.”

Georgia O’Keeffe, Fondation Beyeler, Basel, 23 January-22 May

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