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What if you were Georgia O’Keeffe’s sister, and you wanted to be an artist? Could you empty your mind of her work to create your own original images? A show at the Clark, in Williamstown, Massachusetts, tries, sort of, to separate the sisters, though the title gives away the game: “Ida O’Keeffe: Escaping Georgia’s Shadow.”

Georgia was only two years older than Ida, but they were light-years apart in their characters. Georgia headed straight into her career, like a diver going off the high board. She went to the Art Institute of Chicago, the Art Students League in New York, and Teachers College, at Columbia. She studied technique, perspective, shading, charcoal, oils, watercolor, the virtuoso brushstroke of William Merritt Chase—the craft and mechanics. She plunged into new philosophies and new ideas, swimming in the radical currents of the first decades of the twentieth century. When she left New York, for a women’s college in South Carolina, she took with her the new ideas and her own fervor. During the Christmas holiday of 1915, she—isolated, intent—created a series of abstract drawings that was the first to define her as an artist. A friend showed the drawings to Alfred Stieglitz, the art dealer and photographer at the center of the New York art world. Famously, he said, “At last, a woman on paper.” Georgia had known Stieglitz through his gallery, but Stieglitz had never been aware of her until that moment. He met her through her work: it was that which gave Georgia O’Keeffe gravitas and importance.

To read more on The New Yorker:

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You may also like to read:

* The Painter Who Captured America

* The Other O'Keeffe

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