I recently finished listening to the audio version of Portrait of an Artist: A Biography of Georgia O’Keeffe by Laurie Lisle. What did I think of it? In two words: Very Good.
I must confess I knew very little about Georgia O’Keeffe before this book. I knew she was an American painter – one of the giants of the 20th century. I was vaguely familiar with with her large flower paintings and works depicting bones. I also knew of her connection to New Mexico – that was about it. For some reason, these iconic images never clicked with me, never drove me to learn more about O’Keeffe.
Portrait of an Artist is a comprehensive biography laying out the story of Georgia’s parents before she was born and continuing right through O’Keeffe’s long life to the age of 98. From her childhood , through her schooling to her time as a teacher, the story is told and provides an understanding of this unique, strong, independent character. As is appropriate, large part of the story focuses upon her professional painting years and her time and relationship with photographer, promoter and husband, Alfred Steiglitz.
It is a fascinating story and Lisle tells it in an entertaining way. The book was published in 1980 and the audio version released in 1995 but it is timeless. The book’s narrator Grace Conlin does a very good job of reading the story so as to hold the listener’s attention. There were a few minor errors that I noticed in the reading but in a 13 hour and 42 minute book, they were really inconsequential.
This was one of those books that made me sad when it came to the end, but my education about O’Keeffe has only begun. My appetite has been whetted and now I must see images of the works which the biography talked about. In fact, I have ordered and I am anxiously awaiting the delivery of a printed book that will have images of many of O’Keeffe’s paintings. I am especially looking forward to studying her landscape work.
In summary – a very good book and audio version. I highly recommend it.