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Portrait of an Artist: A Biography of Georgia O'Keeffe

4.05  ·  Rating Details ·  1,466 Ratings  ·  79 Reviews
Georgia O'Keeffe, one of the most original painters America has ever produced, left behind a remarkable legacy when she died at the age of ninety-eight. Her vivid visual vocabulary--sensuous flowers, bleached bones against red sky and earth--had a stunning, profound, and lasting influence on American art.

O'Keeffe's personal mystique is as intriguing and enduring as her bo
Hardcover, 408 pages
Published December 15th 1986 by University of New Mexico Press (first published March 1st 1980)
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Gen This book was the first comprehensive biography written on Ms. O'Keeffe, and while it's a little dated in some of the language used, it's pretty…moreThis book was the first comprehensive biography written on Ms. O'Keeffe, and while it's a little dated in some of the language used, it's pretty detailed and colorful without being sensational. NY Times Book Review also liked this biography of the ones out there.(less)

Community Reviews

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I'm no great reader of biographies. I tend to find them lackluster with their cradle-to-grave narrative arc and cheap psychologizing. Good writing is always hard to find no matter its form. But this particular work is terrific. It's insightful. We see how Georgia O'Keeffe's talent developed early in life. In 1903-04 Georgia and her many sisters were driven some miles in a horse and buggy from their Wisconsin farm to art lessons, an almost unheard of extravagance in those still largely frontier d ...more
Lin Ennis
Jan 01, 2013 Lin Ennis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is one of the two biographies recommended to docents at the O'Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe--the less technical one, according to the gift shop assistant who helped me select one. I chose "less technical" because I wanted a fast read--and it was, because Georgia O'Keeffe was such an interesting person.

I deducted one star because the writing style is not exceptional. The writer was too much in the way, creating the feeling of being told only what the writer found out. Of course, one wants the tr
Claire McAlpine
I read this book a long time ago, after first seeing some of the works of Georgia O'Keefe at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago. I remember it being a wonderful feeling, something in her paintings resonated at a deep level, I didn't understand it, but I felt it and thus began a curious exploration into her life and works.

I remember this now, because her name has begun to pop up on my radar again, first with this novel Georgia: A Novel of Georgia O'Keeffe due for publication in Feb 2016 an
Marie Castellano
Oct 07, 2014 Marie Castellano rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a well researched and presented biography of a complex personality. Georgia O'Keefe was an introvert, independent, determined individual. She did not suffer fools, period. The author tells her story from childhood through her time as a controversial art teacher, through her marriage to Stieglitz, and her life in her beloved deserts of New Mexico. She tells the story honestly but respectfully. One can see and experience O'Keefe's triumphs as well as her moments of self-doubt. The reader l ...more
Carol Ascher
Aug 02, 2014 Carol Ascher rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a wonderful biography of Georgia O'Keefe, showing her struggles for autonomy and her efforts to find her own pictoral images, amidst a relationship with an older well-known photographer. The biography has a light touch, but gives O'Keefe the full complexity of her unique character.
Rebecca Budd
Oct 05, 2013 Rebecca Budd rated it it was amazing
“Portrait of an Artist – A Biography of Georgia O’Keeffe” by Laurie Lisle. I wanted to explore the creative process, to get a glimpse into how an artist thinks, feels, plans and executes.

Georgia O’Keeffe transformed the way we understand the artistic endeavours of women. Her work was dramatic, full of colour and challenged the status quo. Recognized as the “Mother of American Modernism,” she was only twelve when she knew she would be an artist. And it seemed the universe complied with her wishe
Nov 27, 2010 Samilja rated it really liked it
God, I love my sister-in-law who digs around dark nooks and finds little gems like this. Then she shares them!

The last 1/3 of the book was a bit slow -- basically I think the author had trouble drumming up material on O'Keefe's life in New Mexico as the artist was ambivalent at best about this book being written and because, in NM, O'Keefe was no longer on the cultural radar the way she had been in New York, married to Alfred Stieglitz.

The author's writing style is nothing spectacular, but O'Ke
Sep 20, 2012 Alison rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I dismissed O'Keeffe's work when I was much younger thinking it was all just flowers. I bought this book on a whim from a street vendor and it's taken me quite a while to read it. However, I am so immensely glad that I read it. I have so much admiration for O'Keeffe's personality and work ethic, brilliance, and independence now. She was so strong-willed at a time that it was not common for women to be so. Sincerely blown away. I am now genuinely interested in her complete body of work and has in ...more
Heather Ormsby
Aug 12, 2011 Heather Ormsby rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Non-fiction always takes me a long time to slog through, but I'm glad I stuck it out and finished this one. I read it in order to prepare for a new book I bought of letters between Georgia and Stieglitz and wanted to know more about her history and life before tackling those. She was an amazing woman - very often misunderstood and hard to get a long with - but she could have cared less. For her, it was all about the art.
Jul 23, 2011 Ann rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
O'Keefe lived for almost 100 years - nearly a third of the existence of the United States - and learning about her life, from the prarie to the South to New York and then to nearly 40 years Out West is a fascinating commentary on the very short history of this, she was way ahead of her time intellectually and I love her work!
Oct 18, 2014 Kathy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good writer, Great topic being Georgia O'Keeffe. Unknown to me I learned a great deal about Alfred Stieglitz and his photographs.
Halfway through:

Look at Georgia photographed by Alfred Stieglitz:
Look at the chin. Who she is is visible in her eyes and in that chin.

This book is very, very good. Keep in mind I am no huge fan of all those huge flower paintings. The person is what drew me, and I am not disappointed. Did SHE intend the eroticism so often associated with her paintings? Damn art critics! I have always been terribly dissatisfied with the need of critics to explain art. Isn't
Nov 01, 2015 Gen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Laurie Lisle's book seems to be, according to the NY Times, the first, major biography of Georgia O'Keeffe penned while she was still alive in the 1980s. However, she declined to participate in any research for the book (she died in '86). That being so, it has some dated language and references, but it gives you a good overview and a fair amount of "insider" information about a very private artist and her relationship with her husband and modernist photographer Alfred Steiglitz.

To be clear, thi
Apr 24, 2015 Rita rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
1980. This was written while O'Keeffe was still living, but is not an authorized biography.
I read it to find out something about O'Keeffe [and because somebody had given me the book] since I had never known anything much about her life.
Lisle, a journalist, tells a whole lot of facts, and observations and opinions she got from interviewing relatives and acquaintances of O'K.
It's not a book to read for its literary value; it is not 'well written' but is serviceable.
Lisle interjects quite a lot of
Jeannie Long
Oct 16, 2016 Jeannie Long rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I had no idea Georgia O’Keeffe had such a strong and abrasive personality, but that may have been why she succeeded in becoming a renowned artist at a time of oppression for women. Not only were women artists not taken seriously, but they were pigeonholed into a certain style. Georgia broke out of that mold through hard work and insistence on expressing on paper the way she saw the world.

Georgia refused to allow the author of this book to interview her, but told her that she was free to write th
Feisty Harriet
In preparation for a to Santa Fe I wanted to read a few books about New Mexico and, particularly, about Georgia O’Keeffe. My first biography was a flop, but this one was well researched, meticulous, and beautiful. The author talks about her life, her training as an artist and how in her time period women were not ever considered painters (or artists) and O’Keeffe had a lot of obstacles to overcome before she was considered either a painter or an artist. I found myself taking notes in the margins ...more
Mar 09, 2013 Rachel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
This was pretty badly (or simply) written -- think 5th grade book report -- but the subject was so rich it almost didn't matter. I loved reading this.

Regardless of how you feel about her art, this woman lived her life in a really ballsy freaking way. Her biography read like a spiritual text, a plainly spoken reminder that life can be long, there is more than one way to live, and you should live it the one way you can.

In real life she seemed like a real pain to know, so I don't want to glamoriz
Feb 20, 2010 Carol rated it really liked it
I bought this book when it came out in 1980 and now 30 years later I finally read it. Originally I purchased it because I knew she was a part of Stieglitz life and I thought he was great. Originally I thought that she was just a lucky person to have Stieglitz promote her work and that was why she was successful. After reading the book, I have a new appreciation for her as an artist but found her personality irritating. She was born in 1887, the year the woman's right to vote was defeated. Yet sh ...more
Aug 04, 2013 Dominique rated it liked it
The writing is plain at times even a hindrance. Nevertheless one comes away with a greater understanding of who Georgia O'Keeffe was and a profound admiration for her devotion to art. I had not realized that female artists were unheard of, nor the difficulty of some of the choices and sacrifices she made to be an artist. I came away with a certain distaste for her husband. I may now look at books which focus on Ghost Ranch or the later period of her life. Bottom line: worth reading for the amoun ...more
Troy Williams
Aug 09, 2010 Troy Williams rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I became aware of Georgia O'Keeffe through her art but became fascinated by her character and personality. What a fascinating life she led. It is admirable when a person follows their own path. She was a woman who had the courage to not follow the convention of her time and to do what she thought was important. I am drawn to stories of people who seen as provocative and some would say eccentric. A very interesting read. Well researched and it appears to give at least a flavor of the personality ...more
Apr 28, 2014 Bea rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This was a straight-forward biography of an interesting life. The author kind of jumped around a bit, not sticking to strict chronological order, which bothered me a little. Overall a good easy read though.

Sticklers should note it was published before O'Keeffe's death so that is not included.

I also wish there had been some photos of her work included. Luckily now there is the internet so I could google individual works when they were discussed.
J. Oshi
Aug 27, 2012 J. Oshi rated it it was amazing
I read this book in my senior year in high school and was intrigued by Georgia O'Keefe's life. Since then, I've read many, many more books about her life, art, and romances. This book is a very comprehensive look at her youth, adolescence, schooling, the love of her life (Alfred Stieglitz), and of course her art: its expression, medium, and themes.

If you like art, New Mexico, New York, and women beyond their times, this is a book for you.
Jan 22, 2014 Celia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The book is not an exciting or dramatic book-some of the lack of drama may be the sort of life Georgia O'Keefe lived rather than the book itself.

Until I read this book, I did not realize how difficult it was for both women and American trained artists to be accepted by the art establishment.

In contrast to some other reviewers, I found her life more interesting after her husband died and she becomes a successful artist. She becomes more the way I think of Georgia O'Keefe.
Michelle Wegner
Mar 08, 2016 Michelle Wegner rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I find Georgia O'Keefe utterly fascinating. She had a narrow, focused mind but a wild spirit. She was an individual in a time and place where everything and everyone told her she could not be. Her discipline and steady mindedness about her art inspired me to make better art, focus on what I do well and have fierce determination to do what I was made to do.

The book was extremely long, which is why I gave it 4 stars instead of 5. 50-100 pages less & it would be perfect
Nov 11, 2010 Diana rated it really liked it
I enjoyed learning about O'Keefe and her husband, the famous art photographer, Stieglitz. The book is thoroughly researched, and fairly well-written. O'Keefe lived into her 90's, so it is a long story, and it sometimes felt repetitive. I would have loved for the book to have examples of the artwork that was described--I ended up going to the library to look at art books. Overall, it was a pretty engrossing read.
Jul 29, 2011 Patricia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book really piqued my interest in Georgia O'Keefe. It was made less enjoyable by reference to so many works and photographs that were not represented in the photographs, and that all the pictures were black and white. I will look for other works about her. Her story has given me courage to just live my life and not worry about what others think; most people are comfortable within a very small frame of reference and will criticize and judge anyone who ventures beyond.
Graham Bc
Aug 04, 2016 Graham Bc rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really like Georgia o@Keeffe's paintings and have been a fan for sometime. There is a saying about never meeting your heroes as you will be disappointed. Well after reading this account I was now have a very different view of the artist. Yes talented but arrogant, rude and self-assuming are also added to the mix.
i spy fred
Jan 31, 2012 i spy fred rated it really liked it
I wanted to know more about the enigmatic Georgia O'Keeffe after a recent trip to Santa Fe. While not terribly compelling in its writing style, this book is a thorough biography of the timeline of the artist's life. Her unique personality does emerge and with it a better understanding of a legendary talent and a person whom can easily be said to have led an exceptional life.
Jan 16, 2008 Alan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: american-west
Since I knew her in the 70s, I keep reading books about O'Keeffe, and except for Miss O'Keeffe, none of them really stick with me. Some are pretty silly. Have made trips to see the exhibit in Washington, and several times back to Santa Fe to the O'Keeffe museum. Lots of reproductions hanging on my walls. The paintings are interesting, but the psycho - sex ual buzz not so much.
Bridgette Guerzon Mills
Oct 09, 2008 Bridgette Guerzon Mills rated it liked it
Shelves: art
I have always been drawn to Georgia O'Keefe's paintings, but never knew much about her. I understand a lot more about this woman and her art now. She was one tough woman. It was inspiring to read about her life and how she paved the way for other women artists in future generations. Even if it was not her intent.
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Laurie Lisle began her professional life as a journalist then became a biographer before writing about more personal matters in her latest books.

She lives in the village of Sharon, Connecticut, along with her husband, artist Robert Kipniss. When she is not writing or reading, she is hiking or working in her flower garden.

Laurie wrote the first biographies of two women artists, Georgia O'Keeffe
More about Laurie Lisle...

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