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Historic Triangle residents have the opportunity this holiday season to view some of the most famous works of an world renowned artist who spent her formative years right here in Williamsburg.
The Chrysler Museum of Art in Norfolk is hosting a special exhibit titled “Georgia O’Keeffe: A Place of Her Own,” featuring 10 paintings by the artist that will be on display through Jan. 3.
The legendary painter traced her Williamsburg ties to 1902, when her family moved to the area from Wisconsin. O’Keeffe remained behind to finish out her sophomore year of high school while living with relatives before joining her parents and siblings in June of 1903.
O’Keeffe spent time in Williamsburg sporadically over the next decade, returning between stints at various boarding and art schools. The official timeline of her life available at the O’Keeffe Museum’s website places her in the area for the longest continuous period of time from the summer of 1906 to the summer of 1907 while she was recovering from an illness.
Though O’Keeffe’s family relocated to Charlottesville before she found fame in the art world, the Chrysler Museum’s Brock Curator of American Art Alex Mann theorizes that, as with the other places she lived, Williamsburg may have made a lasting impression on the artist.
“We can’t pinpoint any of her works painted in or of Williamsburg, but [O’Keeffe] certainly had a relationship with the town at various points in her life,” Mann said.
Williamsburg served as O’Keeffe’s home base from mid-high school through her mid-20s, years that are usually considered formative years for any individual. The painter would have found herself in the area during a point in her life when she was “still looking for her artistic voice,” Mann said.
O’Keeffe’s connection to the Williamsburg area may entice locals down to the Chrysler Museum to view the exhibit, which features 10 of the artist’s works ranging across six decades of her life.
“Put ten Georgia O’Keeffe images in one room and it’s kind of overwhelming,” Mann said, citing the large size and boldness of scale and color as distinctive traits of O’Keeffe’s works.
The exhibition is the final “Collection Conversation” show, a series put on at the Chrysler Museum in partnership with the National Gallery of Art.
Throughout the series, curators at the museum have selected a single masterwork already in the museum’s possession around which to base a show, borrowing other works from the National Gallery and other private collections to fill out the exhibition.
The image around which this show has been based is Black Door with Red, a later work of O’Keeffe’s inspired by a home in the New Mexico desert where she spent the final decades of her life.
Other standouts include a series of four Jack-in-the-Pulpit flower paintings painted in 1930. The images of a single bloom become more close-up and increasingly abstract as they progress, representing the “pinnacle” of the flower-painting phase of her career, Mann said.
Mann will be leading a gallery talk at which he will offer up additional insight into the paintings as well as how he put together the show, including his decision to use the artist’s own words to describe the images on the wall plaques throughout the room. The tour is free and scheduled for 1 p.m. Dec. 11.
“[This exhibit] is a great chance to see some of [O’Keeffe’s] best, most beautiful, most important works,” Mann said. “It’s not the biggest project I’ve ever worked on, but it’s certainly one of the most beautiful.”
“Georgia O’Keeffe: A Place of Her Own” will be on display during regular museum hours now through Jan. 3. Admission to the Chrysler Museum is free.