A Georgia O’Keeffe Exhibit Is Coming to the Peabody Essex Museum

The collection of 125 works includes paintings, photography, and hand-sewn clothing.

Tony Vaccaro, Georgia O’Keeffe with “Pelvis Series, Red with Yellow” and the desert, 1960. Georgia O’Keeffe Museum. Courtesy of Tony Vaccaro studio.

This winter, you’ll have the chance to see never-before-exhibited portraits and clothing belonging to Georgia O’Keeffe. The Peabody Essex Museum is debuting 125 works by the iconic artist on December 16 in an exhibition titled Georgia O’Keeffe: Art, Image, Style. 

The exhibit, which includes paintings, photographs, and hand-sewn clothing, conveys how the style icon chose to craft her self image. O’Keeffe’s personal style favored simple lines and abstract forms, whether her clothes were hand-sewn, custom made, or merely bought at a store. Many handmade garments will be on display beside her paintings and photographs, offering a complete look at her persona.

“For more than 70 years, Georgia O’Keeffe shaped her public persona, defied labels, and carved out a truly progressive, independent life in order to create her art,” said Austen Barron Bailly, PEM’s George Putnam Curator of American Art, in a statement. “O’Keeffe recognized that how she dressed and posed for the camera could signal an alliance between her attire, her art, and her home. Her aesthetic legacy of organic silhouettes, minimal ornamentation and restrained color palettes continues to capture the popular imagination and inspire leading designers and tastemakers of today.”

From her expressive close-up paintings of elegant flowers to a multi-year portrait project with her husband Alfred Stieglitz, O’Keeffe was undoubtedly a pioneer of modernism. And despite the Victorian values upheld in society during her time, O’Keeffe embraced progressive feminism, refusing to adhere to society’s strict dress codes.

“The exhibition expands our understanding of O’Keeffe, exploring how she expressed her identity and artistic values. O’Keeffe’s androgynous persona, feminist outlook, stark fashion sense and skill as a seamstress combine to create a new understanding of her role as an artist and an individual,” said Bailly.

While working during the Arts and Crafts Movement, O’Keeffe maintained the idea that everything a person makes should be visually appealing. She applied this unity and fluid aesthetic to all aspects of her life.

“O’Keeffe drew no line between the art she made and the life she lived,” said guest curator Wanda M. Corn in a statement. “She strove to make her life a complete work of art, each piece contributing to an aesthetic whole.”

That aesthetic led O’Keeffe to become the most-photographed American artist of the 20th century, allowing her to welcome the world into her life of progressive style and skill.

Georgia O’Keeffe: Art, Image, Style, December 16, 2017-April 1, 2018, Peabody Essex Museum, 161 Essex Street, Salem, pem.org.