Georgia O’Keeffe, health food devotee: the pioneer of modernism’s favourite recipes
The American artist lived until she was 98 and a new book of her favourite recipes might give some clues as to how
Georgia OKeeffe was an icon of the American art world: a pioneer of abstract modernism, with boldly innovative paintings of flowers and bleached animal skulls. Lesser known is that her diet, too, was ahead of its time.
A new cookbook of OKeeffes personal recipes Dinner with Georgia OKeeffe: Recipes, Art and Landscape, by the Australian author Robyn Lea reveals she was a forerunner to todays organic, slow food movement, a health food devotee who made her own yoghurt.
A hundred years ago, OKeeffes first solo exhibition opened in New York and, in 2014, her 1932 painting Jimson Weed/White Flower No 1 set a record price for a work by a female artist, selling at Sothebys for $44.4m. With her art so highly coveted, it is unsurprising that an astute luxury publisher such as Assouline believes there is also a receptive market awaiting her recipes. But her lifestyle habits will be of interest to an audience beyond art aficionados since OKeeffe lived until the age of 98.
In photographs, OKeeffe appears unsmiling and stern-looking, dressed in a largely androgynous uniform of monochromes and striking silhouettes. She was often photographed by her husband and mentor, the photographer and gallerist Alfred Stieglitz but knowing what she liked to eat goes some way to humanise her beyond his powerful black and white images.
You kind of feel like youre reading someones diary in a way, eating the food they ate, because its quite a personal thing, Lea says. She really was quite a force for this new way of thinking across so many levels, whether in art, food, dress and interiors.
The book is a companion piece of sorts to Leas 2015 book, Dinner with Jackson Pollock, which featured the personal recipes of the celebrated modern painter. Lea believes it is natural that she should follow up her Pollock book with one on OKeeffe. If you think of the hero male icon and the hero female icon of the 20th century in art in America, they are the two.
When Lea began conducting online research from her home in Melbourne, she knew nothing of OKeeffes eating habits. It was four months later in March 2016 that she visited the Georgia OKeeffe Research Centre in New Mexico and discovered a trove of OKeeffes handwritten recipes, along with magazine cuttings and instructional manuals for her yoghurt maker and various kitchen accoutrements. What fascinated me was how the three elements of food, art and nature worked together both visually and philosophically in OKeeffes life, Lea says.
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