There were some paintings hung on the walls of a tiny room in the Anderson Galleries; other paintings, smaller ones, rested on cabinets or stood along the floor. The room was full of people, talking to each other in awed, foolish whispers. In the corner of the room sat a lady dressed in a black cloth coat, smiling like a severe Mona Lisa. She was Georgia O'Keeffe; the paintings on the wall belonged to her because she had made them; for some reason, the room seemed hers as well.
If the people who looked at them appeared silly and ungainly, it was partly by contrast, because the paintings were neither. They are difficult paintings to write about. When Georgia O'Keeffe paints flowers, she does not paint fifty flowers stuffed into a dish. On most of her canvases there appeared one gigantic bloom, its huge feathery petals furled into some astonishing pattern of color and shade and line. A bee, busy with a paint brush, might so have reproduced the soft, enormous caves in which his pasturage is found. One of the.insects out of Henri Fabre, some thoughtful, sensitive caterpillar who had read Freud, might have so pictured the green and perpendicular avenues of his morning's promenade. But no caterpillar, however sensitive, no bee, however dexterous, could have traced, in the lines of a flower's petal, so suave, so decorative a design.
Most of the pictures were the images of flowers seen through two lenses; the first a powerful magnifying glass, the second the iris of a perspicacious inward eye, whose function was to give clarity a significance beyond the decorative. In the way a purple petunia spread its violent petals, there was a hint, a symbol for truths not necessarily too deep for words to reach but outside the meanings from which words have been derived. It is enough to say that Miss O'Keeffe's paintings are as full of passion as the verses of Solomon's Song.
Of this woman Critic Lewis Mumford has said: "She has beautified the sense of what it is to be a woman; she has revealed the intimacies of love's juncture with the purity and the absence of shame that lovers feel in their meeting; she has brought what was inarticulate and troubled and confused into the realm of conscious beauty, where it may be recalled and enjoyed with a new intensity; she has, in sum, found a language for experiences that are otherwise too intimate to be shared."
Georgia O'Keeffe is generally addressed by her last name; her husband is Alfred Stiegiitz who was the first connoisseur to see her paintings ..and the first to discover the merit in them. Georgia O'Keeffe had been brought up in Wisconsin and Virginia, had studied in Manhattan under William Chase, who, as she calmly observes, would immediately perish of bewilderment should he, by an accident, walk .into the room where her paintings are on view. She was teaching drawing to young people in Texas, when she sent two of her charcoal drawings to a girl in New York. The girl took them to Stiegiitz, whose gallery was then full of Matisse and Picasso, whose senseless innovations caused academicians to expire from apoplexy.