Lifetime Television produced this award-winning biopic of the life of Georgia O'Keeffe (played by Joan Allen) and the love of her life, photographer Alfred Stieglitz (Jeremy Irons).
Before they even met, Stieglitz showed several of her paintings in his New York City gallery without her permission, not knowing that the artist was a woman. When she demanded that he take her paintings down, he persuaded her that she was a talented artist and offered to allow her to stay in New York in his niece's unoccupied apartment. There began their tumultuous love affair which lasted for the next several decades. Some of her popular works from this early period include “Black Iris” and “Oriental Poppies.”
Although Stieglitz was already married and old enough to be Georgia's father, they eventually married, both having fallen deeply in love with the other. When an exhibition of Stieglitz's paintings included some nude photographs of his wife, Georgia felt humiliated and used, but Stieglitz insisted that his management of her career would make her a household name. Her reaction to his overbearing nature was always to let him have his way.
Stieglitz began neglecting his own photography career, preferring to manage Georgia's work as well as the work of other young artists. He succeed in controlling every aspect of her career. She was quoted in the film as saying that, through it all, she valued his opinion more than any other person's. When her fame far outstripped his, Stieglitz began to resent her rise and took on a young art patron as a lover, seemingly to provoke her. His attitude eventually led to Georgia's nervous breakdown.
Jeremy Irons portrays Alfred Stieglitz
Georgia was invited by an older art patron, Mabel Dodge Luhan (played by Tyne Daly) to spend some time at her ranch in Taos, New Mexico. It is here that Georgia's artistic talent bloomed and where she felt most at home. Taos provided her the subjects which enhanced her work - flowers, driftwood, animal skulls and the magnificent views of the desert. She is most well-known for her rendering of over-sized flowers. This environment inspired such paintings as “Black Cross, New Mexico” and “Cow's Skull with Calico Roses.”
One flaw in the film is the fact that the viewer is only allowed a few short glimpses of Georgia O'Keeffe's work, although it is claimed that seventy of her original paintings and drawings were made available for use in the film. They are seen only fleetingly. She had the talent to create intricate detail, with shadows, lighting, and distinct nuances, different from the norm. The subjects she created were simply the articles which she found in her environment. Her body of work includes over 1,000 paintings that have been documented, plus hundreds of drawings and watercolors on paper, as well as a few sculptures. Many others are unrecorded because she destroyed them herself. Her works can be seen today at museums around the world as well as at the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Joan Allen did a superb job of portraying Georgia O'Keeffe, and of course Jeremy Irons never fails to charm an audience with his believability and talent for interpreting a character. The elderly pictures of Georgia which are seen today are not flattering. It may be that her isolated life in Taos caused her to lose the desire to care for her appearance. She passed away in 1986 when she was 98 years old, but made very few public appearances in her life, especially after her move to Taos.
Despite its great reviews, somehow the film fell short of revealing the total personality of Georgia O'Keeffe. She remains an unknown. Of course, she did not revealed herself to others, except through her paintings. Perhaps her domination by Alfred Stieglitz did not allow her to become a human being separate from her magnificent talent.