Ida O’Keeffe, Sister of Georgia, Will Get the Spotlight at DMA

Ida O’Keeffe, Variation on a Lighthouse Theme II, c. 1933, Private Collection.The Dallas Museum of Art will present Ida O’Keeffe: Escaping Georgia’s Shadow, an exhibition that will premiere at the DMA in 2017 as the first venue of a national tour. The exhibition will showcase for the first time approximately 40 paintings, watercolors, prints and drawings, to be supplemented with photographs of the artist taken by Alfred Stieglitz in the 1920s. Although she was an artist recognized as artistically gifted, her artistic efforts were overshadowed by those of her famous older sister, Georgia O’Keeffe.

Ida Ten Eyck O’Keeffe (1889–1961) was the third of seven O’Keeffe children and grew up in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin. Both of her grandmothers and eventually two of her sisters, including Georgia, were artists. As a professionally trained artist, graduating with an MFA from Columbia in 1932, she possessed a mastery of color and dynamic composition that caught the eyes of critics, who designated her as someone to watch. These small triumphs became a source of competitive tension between Ida and Georgia, the latter of whom withheld support of her younger sister’s professional ambitions. This friction, as well as the cost of being the sister of Georgia O’Keeffe and its impact on Ida’s professional aspirations, will be an additional area of inquiry in the exhibition’s research.

The exhibition will bring to light the best of the known works by Ida O’Keeffe in order to consider their merits as well as their place within the aesthetics of American modernism during the 1920s and 30s. O’Keeffe’s works of the 1920s fully fit within the overarching trend for realism of that decade; however, her paintings in the 1930s, a series of lighthouses in particular, are highly sophisticated abstracted representations most likely relying on dynamic symmetry, a compositional concept that linked art and mathematics. They reveal her as a solid artist who developed a bold, distinctive style. In the 1940s, O’Keeffe’s work took another great shift toward a regionalist aesthetic, and late works show a definite waning of power that may have mirrored her declining health and fortunes.

The Museum continues to conduct research on Ida O’Keeffe and would welcome any information regarding additional, unknown works by her, as well as supporting materials (e.g., correspondence, photographs and ephemera) related to the artist.

Subsequent venues and dates for a national exhibition tour will be announced at a later date. The exhibition will be accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue, which will be the first publication devoted to exploring the life and work of Ida O’Keeffe.

Ida O’Keeffe: Escaping Georgia’s Shadow is organized by the Dallas Museum of Art and curated by Sue Canterbury, The Pauline Gill Sullivan Associate Curator of American Art at the Dallas Museum of Art.

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