Georgia O’Keeffe: Memories of Drawings

Georgia O’Keeffe: Memories of Drawings, a Hayward Gallery touring exhibition of 21 drawings, presented as fine photogravures pivotal to O’Keeffe’s development as an artist, is now open in The Gallery at The Arc. This exhibition shows us the building blocks of O’Keeffe’s practice, brought to this region for the first time. For O’Keeffe, drawing was restorative, rejuvenating and vital to her creativity and wellbeing.

As the exhibition opens, we wanted to give behind the scenes access to the installation at The Gallery and explain the importance of this collection.

Exhibition shot of Georgia O’Keeffe: Memories of Drawings.

Why O’Keefe?

As a pioneer of American Modernism, Georgia O’Keeffe is a must-have artist for The Gallery programme. Despite the artist's essential role in the history of Western art (the movement to abstraction) and her status as a feminist icon, no UK institutions hold her infamous paintings. The Hayward Gallery touring offer presents an incredibly exciting and rare opportunity to see the artists' work first-hand, and a chance to understand her personality a little more, too, through the works interpretation.

Richly evocative

The collection of prints consists of beautifully delineated sketches, images of natural swirls, jutting and sincere lines and objects rendered in painstakingly soft gradients. More than this, the exhibition charts key trajectories for O’Keeffe. It is clear that the dynamic energy and spirit captured in the sketches in this exhibition emanated through the artist's whole career.

Georgia O'Keeffe, Drawing No. 17, 1919, from Some Memories of Drawings, 1974 © Georgia O'Keeffe Museum/DACS, London 2021. Photo: Anna Arca

Central to O’Keeffe’s career

It was her early charcoal sketches that brought O’Keeffe to the attention of a highly influential man; Alfred Stieglitz. When Stieglitz first exhibited the sketches, delivered to the intrepid Master of photography by a friend, the artist’s reaction was one of dismay. ‘I was really incensed that he should hang up my drawings and that I should not know anything about it.’ she stated. But Stieglitz’s enthusiasm was genuine. He proclaimed them to be ‘the purest, finest, sincerest things that have entered [Gallery] 291 in a long while’. This not only ensured the entrance of O’Keeffe into a gallery that first welcomed the likes of Rodin, Matisse, Cezanne and Picasso to America, putting O’Keeffe firmly at the centre of contemporary art, but also formed the nexus of her long artistic practice.

O’Keeffe became fully immersed into the Avante Garde scene nurtured by Gallery 291, where the experimental photogravure was under production by members of the Photo-Secession movement who frequented there.

An easy decision

These works not only chart key trajectories of O’Keeffe’s oeuvre and career, but they also are representatives themselves of her explorative process. They are a distillation of the dynamism inherent in O’Keeffe, a snapshot of her resolve and natural predisposition for innovation. It was this that made us want to bring these works to the gallery.

The exhibition team unloaded the Photogravures, revealing O’Keeffe’s exceptional draughtsmanship.

The installation

As ever, the unloading of works in the space is most anticipated and this exhibition was no exception. Each photogravure print parted from its box by the exhibition team demonstrated the potency of the photogravure medium, with their gloriously velvety blacks and soft and graceful gradients.

We have also been incredibly fortunate to include a short film, with the kind permission of the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Their fascinating online resources and access to O’Keeffe’s home and studio are a literal window into the artists’ world. The Gallery projection will present a 14m documentary which introduces her life and art, including glimpses of the famous artworks in their collections.

Georgia O’Keeffe: Memories of Drawings is a Hayward Gallery Touring show. The exhibition runs 26 September - 15 November 2023.

Georgia O’Keeffe | The Arc Winchester – arts, reading and community
An exhibition of 21 exquisite photogravure prints of major drawings by Georgia O’Keeffe.

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