Museum  December 17, 2018  Karen Chernick

“Escaping Georgia’s Shadow": Ida O’Keeffe Steps Into the Spotlight

Dallas Museum of Art

Ida Ten Eyck O'Keeffe, Creation, date unknown, oil on canvas, Gerald Peters Gallery

Dallas Museum of Art

Alfred Stieglitz, Ida O'Keeffe, 1924, gelatin silver print, Collection of Michael Stipe

When Ida Ten Eyck O’Keeffe exhibited her work for the first time–in a 1927 group show curated by her sister, Georgia, at New York’s Opportunity Gallery–she identified simply as Ida Ten Eyck. The O’Keeffe name was already taken by another painter, and she didn’t want to attract comparison as the younger sister of. Nonetheless, her work was recognized on its own merit; the New York Times critic noted that “among the best pictures are those by Ida Ten Eyck” and the New Yorker added: “We think that the subjects of Ida Ten Eyck are well worth watching.”

Ida continued painting colorful abstracted landscapes and still lifes, exhibiting them throughout her lifetime in group shows at small galleries across the United States. “Ida is truly an artist, too, if ever there was one,” Stieglitz wrote of her, in a 1924 letter to journalist and critic Paul Rosenfeld. But as an unmarried woman with struggling finances, she was often left without resources or time to paint while hustling to make ends meet as a teacher or nurse. As a result, Ida’s output was limited and her story has, until now, been relegated to something of a footnote in the biography of her sister, modernist painter Georgia O’Keeffe.

Dallas Museum of Art

Ida Ten Eyck O'Keeffe, Variation on a Lighthouse Theme V, by 1933, oil on canvas, Collection of Jeri Wolfson

Ida’s first ever solo museum exhibition, currently on view at the Dallas Museum of Art (DMA) and set to show at the Clark Art Institute later in 2019, hopes to bring this unsung artist to the fore. Following years of research, the DMA presents Ida O’Keeffe: Escaping Georgia’s Shadow which reunites over 40 paintings, watercolors, prints, and drawings by the artist and is accompanied by a catalogue constituting the first publication devoted to the life and artwork of Ida Ten Eyck O’Keeffe (1889-1961).

Dallas Museum of Art

Ida Ten Eyck O'Keeffe, The Royal Oak of Tennessee, 1932, oil on canvas, Collection of Keris Salmon

“Ida’s life proves that exceptional talent and ambition don’t necessarily ensure success and acclaim for an artist,” writes Sue Canterbury, exhibition curator and curator of American art at the DMA, in the exhibition catalogue. “It is only possible to conjecture what might have been, given the right circumstances.”

Dallas Museum of Art

Ida Ten Eyck O'Keeffe, Peach-Blown Vase, 1927, oil on canvas, Courtesy of Gerald Peters Gallery

Ida O’Keeffe: Escaping Georgia’s Shadow is on view at the Dallas Museum of Art through February 24, 2019. The exhibition opens at the Clark Art Institute July 4, 2019.

About the Author

Karen Chernick

Karen Chernick is an arts and culture journalist who loves a good story.

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