Art & Art History ETDs

Publication Date



This dissertation will prove that Georgia O'Keeffe, painter, and her husband, Alfred Stieglitz, photographer, had a strong influence on each other's work. This paper compares O'Keeffe and Stieglitz as working artists and traces chronologically their growth in relation to one another.

The method of comparison is used to prove their reciprocal influence. The dissertation is divided into seven different time periods in chronological order.

The first chapter examines their individual histories prior to their meeting in 1916 to prove their need for one another in terms of their images as well as the circumstances in their particular lives at the time of meeting.

The second chapter examines the images they produced after the first meeting, between 1918 and 1922, to determine the immediate effect they had upon each other. It is during these first years of collaboration that they incorporated in their work the strong styles and ideas inspired by each other.

The third chapter examines the public exhibitions in 1923 and 1924 and reactions to this first body of work they produced together.

The fourth chapter deals solely with the year of 1924 to prove that as a result of the lessons they were learning from each other, they produced their strongest images. By 1924 both of their images were revolving around Stieglitz's idea of "equivalence." This idea involved using forms in the natural world to stand for inner feelings.

The fifth chapter, dealing with 1925, will examine the effect this idea of "equivalence" had on the artists who were to become part of Stieglitz's "circle."

The sixth chapter will examine the period between 1930 and 1940 to show how their styles and ideas began to move apart.

The last chapter deals with 1940 and on. By the time of Stieglitz's death in 1946, they had exchanged places in their use of the natural world. O'Keeffe began to work in the style of the young Stieglitz subjugating her personal feelings to the realistic representation of the objects she painted. Stieglitz, on the other hand, had come to work in the more subjective manner of the young O'Keeffe, letting forms in the real world be vehicles for expressing his most personal inner feelings. Thus their reciprocal influence was not linear, but circular.

In conclusion, the work of O'Keeffe and Stieglitz made a circle. They each immediately helped each other to strengthen and clarify their styles and to formalize their ideas. Their work grew and transformed itself in relation to one another. Their common ground was the use of the idea of "equivalence" which allowed them at different times to work in both representational and abstract styles. While O'Keeffe began using abstract forms, her later work was more realistic in nature. Stieglitz abandoned his most realistic images of his earlier days to produce more abstract and subjective images at the time of his death. It is impossible to avoid separating a comparison of their imagery from their strong personalities, backgrounds and training. Their union as an extraordinary balance of opposing strengths of course affected their imagery and influence upon each other.



Document Type


Degree Name


Level of Degree


Department Name

UNM Department of Art and Art History

First Committee Member (Chair)

Beaumont Newhall

Second Committee Member

Thomas Barrow

Third Committee Member

Van Deren Coke

Fourth Committee Member

Nicolai Cikovsky Jr.