East Meets East: Georgia O’Keeffe, Asian Art and the “University of Virginia Years”Research Paper
Numerous art historians cite educator and artist Arthur Dow as the doorway for Asian art into Georgia O’Keeffe’s works. A smaller number pinpoint the summer of 1912 when O’Keeffe learned Japanese compositional techniques in a class taught by Alon Bement at the University of Virginia. However, art historians reference only a few Asian works of art as potential sources of influence on O’Keeffe. In O’Keeffe’s own words, Asian art had a direct impact on her compositions: “It was in the fall of 1915 that I decided not to use any color… it was June before I needed blue. Along the way I had probably looked very carefully at Chinese and Japanese paintings and calligraphy before I got to Blue Lines (1916).”
The visible evidence of Asian art’s influence on O’Keeffe begins with her enrollment in Bement’s class. Based on her own words, she continued to study Asian art during those years. Her home library at Abiquiu demonstrates this passion lasted a lifetime. It contains numerous books on Asian art and works by Japanese artists such as Hokusai and Korin. Examining Dow’s writings and other primary documents in conjunction with O’Keeffe’s work during 1912-1916 reveals a number of Asian sources that resonate in her art.
Georgia O'Keeffe, University of Virginia, Arthur Dow, Ernest Fenollosa, Japanese Art
University of Virginia