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"Georgia O'Keeffe in Williamsburg: A Re-Creation of the Artist's First Public Exhibition"
2001-01-27 until 2001-05-27
Muscarelle Museum of Art, College of William and Mary
Williamsburg, VA, USA United States of America

Previously unknown historical documents about one the nation's most celebrated artists, Georgia O'Keeffe, will be displayed as part of an unusual exhibition recreating a lost 1938 show of O'Keeffe’s work. The exhibition will include previously unknown O'Keeffe correspondence, photographs and other historical documents, including a home movie - never before viewed publicly - capturing O'Keeffe on the William and Mary campus in 1938. Surviving intact for more than half a century, the film was recently acquired by the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum and has been transferred to video for the exhibition.

While she is most often associated with the state of New Mexico, O’Keeffe actually lived with her family in Williamsburg, Va., between 1903 and 1909, and her two brothers attended William and Mary. After high school, O’Keeffe left Williamsburg to pursue an art career, and by the 1930s was generally acknowledged as one of America’s leading artists. In recognition of her achievements, the college awarded O’Keeffe an honorary degree in the fine arts—her first—in 1938.

Two special events commemorated the occasion. One was a gift to the college - an O’Keeffe painting entitled White Flower - from Mrs. John D. Rockefeller, Jr. The second was an exhibition of O'Keeffe paintings organized on campus by the artist. The show was small but important because it was O'Keeffe's first public exhibition in the South. O'Keeffe and her husband and promoter Alfred Stieglitz selected eight paintings - a survey of the artist's work from the previous ten years, to include five flower paintings, one view of New York City, two southwestern landscapes and one of the bone paintings that became a seminal part of the artist's oeuvre.

On display for only six days, the paintings were returned to Stieglitz's gallery and the exhibition has since been virtually forgotten. In the extensive O'Keeffe bibliography, there are a few references to the granting of the honorary degree, but no documentation whatsoever about the exhibition. Even the present-day owners of the eight paintings were unaware of the 1938 exhibition.

After its premier in Williamsburg, the show will travel to the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe, N.M, and will be on view from June 23 to Oct. 21, 2001. Georgia O'Keeffe in Williamsburg: A Re-Creation of the Artist's First Public Exhibition in the South is sponsored by MBNA America in honor of Thomas A. Graves, Jr., president emeritus of the College of William and Mary.

Black Hollyhock, Blue Larkspur, 1930
oil on canvas,
30 x 40 inches
Private collection,
on loan to the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum

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