Picks and Pans Review: Georgia O'keeffe: One Hundred Flowers

updated 11/09/1987 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/09/1987 AT 01:00 AM EST

edited by Nicholas Callaway

Georgia O'Keeffe began painting giant, brilliantly colored flowers in 1918 when she was a beautiful young woman in love with photographer Alfred Stieglitz. O'Keeffe made her flowers big on purpose, she once said, so that people would look at them. They did. Her huge, sexually charged close-ups of calla lilies, roses, poppies, trumpet flowers and hollyhocks did much to establish her reputation as a radical goddess of American art. Stieglitz himself once commented, "O'Keeffe let herself be seen, gave herself like a flower and for an American woman that was too remarkable." This book, which celebrates the centenary of the artist's birth, is an homage rendered on a scale O'Keeffe would have appreciated. Its worshipful editor, Nicholas Callaway, makes the insupportable claim that O'Keeffe, although not a flower painter, "may be, however, the greatest painter of flowers in the history of Western art." (What about, say, Van Gogh or Manet?) O'Keeffe's paintings, many of which have not been on view since the '20s and '30s, are beautifully reproduced. But the volume's ostentatious perfectionism gets in its way. There are, for example, no sidenotes next to the plates. Too big to look at easily, Georgia O'Keeffe: One Hundred Flowers is no more than an exotic bouquet, beautiful but scentless. (Knopf/Callaway, $100)

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