The Culture Arts

Georgia O’Keeffe’s clothing provides insight into the artist

Alfred Stieglitz/Courtesy of The Georgia O'Keefe Museum
  • Robert Lerose

The aesthetic sensibility of an iconic American artist who remains a muse for designers to this day is explored in “Georgia O’Keeffe: Art, Image, Style,” which was recently on view in the New York borough of Brooklyn and in North Carolina and is now at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Mass., from Dec. 16 through April 1, 2018.

“It’s the first time you’re going to see Georgia O’Keeffe’s paintings in the context of her wardrobe, which has never been seen before, and photographs of her,” says Austen Barron Bailly, the George Putnam Curator of American Art at the Peabody. “So this is really the first exhibition to look at O’Keeffe’s entire creative practice as a painter, as a woman, as a person, and as a subject for dozens and dozens of great American photographers.”

The exhibition contains garments that
O’Keeffe designed and handmade such as an ivory silk ensemble, a black wool dress with pleats, denim and chambray shirts, and bandannas. The clothing and colors reveal the artistic choices O’Keeffe made, adapting a black-and-white wardrobe from her time in New York to the rugged landscape of her new home in the Southwest and always striving for simplicity and practicality in what she wore. 

Works on display include oil and watercolor paintings, garments, accessories, jewelry, photographs, and sculpture. 

O’Keeffe’s signature style is still felt today. Her path to celebrity and her lingering influence are major themes running throughout the exhibition.   

“She really became a household name,” Ms. Bailly says. “These photographs of her were widely published until people became very familiar with her persona, sometimes more than her art. What’s great about this show is that it gives you a chance to put all the pieces back together and really understand her [with] a more 360-degree view of this truly exceptional creative person.”

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