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Famous Cloud Paintings by the Legendary Artist and World Traveler of Her Time

22.11.2021
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Georgia O'Keeffe

The painting by famed artist Georgia O’Keeffe “Sky Above Clouds IV” has become legendary. She is best known for her paintings of flowers and desert landscapes. But in her mature age and signature style, she has created a veritable journey into the skies. Let’s take a closer look at the artist’s incredible work, namely the painting “Sky Above Clouds IV”

A Little about the Artist

Georgia O’Keeffe is known as the mother of the American Modernist style. She grew up on a farm near Wisconsin and began her art education at the School of the Art Institute in Chicago in 1905. In 1908 her family had no opportunity to continue her education, so she took a job as an art illustrator. She then taught art until 1918.

O’Keefe continued to study even during the summer. During the following years she continued to experiment with her own style, trying to find her signature handwriting in art.

Georgia O'Keeffe abstract charcoal drawings

In 1915 she created a series of abstract charcoal drawings. After making preparations for these drawings, O’Keefe outlined her compositions on canvas with charcoal and then painted and applied color. Infrared photographs of her work show that her painted surfaces match the drawings underneath quite closely.

She then sent a selection of these abstract drawings to a friend in New York, who showed them to the art dealer and photographer Alfred Stieglitz. Through this acquaintance, she moved to New York in 1918 and began working in earnest as a real artist. Georgia went on to create her unusual work, such as the Red Canna series.

The artist’s personal life also developed in interesting ways.

O'Keeffe and Stieglitz 1924

O’Keeffe and Stieglitz were married in 1924. The couple lived in New York until 1929, and then O’Keeffe began to fly frequently to New Mexico, where further work awaited her. After Stieglitz’s death, she moved permanently to New Mexico, where she continued to paint for the rest of her life.

O’Keefe suffered from blindness due to macular degeneration, so she painted her last unaided oil painting in 1972.

Georgia O’Keeffe is among the most influential artists of the twentieth century. Her work is very much an expression of her deep connection with nature and the landscape through her personal, abstract, visual language. In 1946 she became the first woman to receive a retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and her innovative paintings are now synonymous with the modernist movement in the United States.

History of Famous Georgia O’Keeffe Clouds Paintings

Georgia O’Keeffe Clouds Paintings

This monumental masterpiece was painted by the artist Georgia O’Keeffe in 1965. She was already 77 years old at the time. She had been inspired by her flights since the 1950s, so she learned how to convey her emotions and display feelings in her work.

But when did Georgia O’Keeffe start painting?

The future artist knew from the age of 12 what she wanted to be. She went to art school, but what they taught her didn’t match how she wanted to paint. So throughout her life, she studied and developed her ideas on her own, inspired by the work of other artists.

Georgia O'Keeffe 1963

In 1963, while working in New Mexico, Georgia O’Keeffe began illustrating the vast clouds she had seen through the windows of airplanes on her many travels.

To understand how inspiring these views were for the author, consider the age of the paintings. Air travel was still in development in the 1960s and 1970s, but the artist had such opportunities.

She depicted the sky in different moods, placing the same objects in different weather conditions, as she did with flowers and leaves.

Her works of art were more like a mural, large-scale and the kind she had wanted to do for quite some time. The abstract clouds paintings were also the result of a process, not something that arrived immediately.

In later years Georgia O’Keeffe’s health began to deteriorate, so perhaps she felt the need to increase her ambition even more while she was still able to realize her sky and cloud projects. The artist continued to create.

She began with a familiar depiction of famous cloud paintings on a small canvas.

Typically, the artist can find some theme and start working on it with admiration and a desire to experiment, and then move on to the next clouds sky painting.

Then she began to depict more creative images on larger canvases. O’Keeffe had the experience of painting the sky and clouds eight feet high and twenty-four feet wide. Such a creation was very time-consuming. She painted every spare minute from six in the morning until deep into the night. And all because Georgia O’Keeffe had to finish the clouds painting while it was warm in her makeshift studio-garage.

That size of canvas might seem like something crazy, but the artist was passionate about her idea.

The Legendary “Sky above Clouds IV”

This painting ”sky above the clouds” is in the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Sky above Clouds IV painting

The first thing that strikes the eye is the unnatural symbolism of the artist’s sky above clouds. They look more like a series of tiles because they are fairly equal in size, and also consistent in the way they approach the edges of neighboring clouds, but leaving a small gap between each of them.

This small gap of Georgia O’Keeffe “Sky above clouds IV “allows the blue hues that are other parts of the sky to penetrate from below. A bright horizon of “sky above clouds IV” canvas print can be seen in the distance, which adds to the aesthetic interest. This gives us an idea of exactly what the artist was looking out of the window. Those fortunate enough to fly in those days no doubt have felt privileged to see the clouds with their own eyes. At that time, air and space travel were still a rarity, available only to the lucky few. Nowadays, flying no longer surprises anyone, as many people prefer to travel the world by plane.

The Largest Georgia O’Keeffe Cloud Painting

The Largest Georgia O’Keeffe Cloud Painting

Few galleries are able to exhibit this work, given the size. Although most large galleries have very large spaces in which to display artwork of various sizes. It is the size of the artist’s work that helps convey the feeling of the vast expanse of heaven as she flies. In addition, she has become much more experienced and confident in daring projects. O’Keefe used to be able to worry about who wanted to buy or even exhibit such a large work. But these days, that’s not a problem.

In 1970, the successful work of Georgia O’Keeffe “Sky above clouds IV” was presented at the Museum of American Art in New York at the Art Institute in Chicago and at the San Francisco Museum of Art.

But after being shown in New York and Chicago, the sky and clouds painting was deemed too enormous to enter the main entrance of the San Francisco museum. Thus the Georgia O’Keeffe cloud painting stood motionless at the Art Institute for more than a decade. And in the meantime, the artist and her art admirers pushed for the sky painting with clouds to be included in the museum’s permanent collection.

The Artist’s Legacy

Georgia O’Keeffe’s most famous paintings include:

Oriental Poppies (1928)

Oriental Poppies (1928)

Ram's Head White Hollyhock and Little Hills (1935)

Ram’s Head White Hollyhock and Little Hills (1935)

Jimson Weed, White Flower No. 1 (1932)

Jimson Weed, White Flower No. 1 (1932)

Summer Days (1936)

Summer Days (1936)

Blue and Green Music (1921)

Blue and Green Music (1921)

Red Canna (1924)

Red Canna (1924)

Radiator Building – Night, New York (1927)

Radiator Building – Night, New York (1927)

Most of the artist’s paintings are still held in the United States.

O’Keefe did not think about financial gain and was therefore pleased that her works were donated to some of the significant art institutions in the United States, although in most cases she declined money. But the artist’s most expensive painting was Jimson Grass/White Flower No. 1, which she completed in 1932. This impressive work sold for $44.4 million at Sotheby’s auction house in 2014.

The upside today is that the prominence of these paintings in public collections means that we can all enjoy them for ourselves, and that the creative journey of the legendary artist always remains in the spotlight.

Today O’Keeffe is known throughout the world for her groundbreaking art, which covers a huge range of subjects, from flowers to bones, from cityscapes to landscapes, all of which are essential works of American modernism.

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