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Georgia O’Keeffe Quotes For the Tortured Artist in Each of Us

Keep reading for some Georgia O’Keeffe quotes that paint a picture of this amazing woman.

Georgia O’Keeffe started studying art at 18 years old, formally training at the School of the Art Institute in Chicago. She studied there for three years, before running out of money to pay for her schooling. She worked as an illustrator and a teacher for two years, continuing to devote her summers to studying art.

The principles and philosophies of Arthur Wesley Dow influenced her greatly. The feeling of being restricted and taught to copy nature gave way to the idea that an artist could do much more. Dow believed that an artist’s work should be one of self-expression, using the elements of a composition as a medium to do so.

Georgia O’Keeffe would become known as the ‘Mother of American Modernism,’ altering the way Americans appreciated art; even changing the way most viewed women, sexuality, and mental health.

These Georgia O’Keeffe quotes share her thoughts on her work, how she felt about people and painting. She even has some advice that can apply to most of us today, even if we are not artists.

Don’t forget to also check out these Mark Manson quotes to inspire you to live a better life.

Georgia O’Keeffe quotes about flowers

1. “When you take a flower in your hand and really look at it, it’s your world for the moment. I want to give that world to someone else. Most people in the city rush around so they have no time to look at a flower. I want them to see it, whether they want to or not.” — Georgia O’Keeffe

2. “Nobody sees a flower really; it is so small. We haven’t time, and to see takes time – like to have a friend takes time.” — Georgia O’Keeffe

3. “I decided that if I could paint that flower in a huge scale, you could not ignore its beauty.” — Georgia O’Keeffe

4. “I hate flowers – I paint them because they’re cheaper than models and they don’t move.” — Georgia O’Keeffe

5. “It was in the 1920s when nobody had time to reflect that I saw a still-life painting with a flower that was perfectly exquisite, but so small you really could not appreciate it.” — Georgia O’Keeffe

6. “If you take a flower in your hand and really look at it, it’s your world for a moment.” — Georgia O’Keeffe

7. “I made you take time to look at what I saw and when you took time to really notice my flower; you hung all your associations with flowers on my flower and you write about my flower as if I think and see what you think and see—and I don’t.” — Georgia O’Keeffe

Georgia O’Keeffe quotes on painting and the arts

8. “One can’t paint New York as it is, but rather as it is felt.” — Georgia O’Keeffe

9. “I often painted fragments of things because it seemed to make my statement as well as or better than the whole could.” — Georgia O’Keeffe

10. “I don’t very much enjoy looking at paintings in general. I know too much about them. I take them apart.” — Georgia O’Keeffe

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11. “I can’t live where I want to, I can’t go where I want to go, I can’t do what I want to, I can’t even say what I want to. I decided I was a very stupid fool not to at least paint as I wanted to.” — Georgia O’Keeffe

12. “To create one’s world in any of the arts takes courage.” — Georgia O’Keeffe

13. “I know now that most people are so closely concerned with themselves that they are not aware of their own individuality, I can see myself, and it has helped me to say what I want to say in paint.” — Georgia O’Keeffe

14. “Singing has always seemed to me the most perfect means of expression. It is so spontaneous. And after singing, I think the violin. Since I cannot sing, I paint.” — Georgia O’Keeffe

15. “I got half-a-dozen paintings from that shattered plate.” — Georgia O’Keeffe

16. “You paint from your subject, not what you see… I rarely paint anything I don’t know very well.” — Georgia O’Keeffe

17. “The abstraction is often the most definite form for the intangible thing in myself that I can only clarify in paint.” — Georgia O’Keeffe

If you’re enjoying these quotes, make sure to read our collection of painting quotes about the power of creating with color.

Georgia O’Keeffe quotes that express what she thought of people

18. “It was all so far away – there was quiet and an untouched feel to the country and I could work as I pleased.” — Georgia O’Keeffe

19. “I wish people were all trees and I think I could enjoy them then.” — Georgia O’Keeffe

20. “Anyone with any degree of mental toughness ought to be able to exist without the things they like most, for a few months at least.” — Georgia O’Keeffe

21. “The morning is the best time, there are no people around. My pleasant disposition likes the world with nobody in it.” — Georgia O’Keeffe

22. “You are one of my nicest thoughts.” — Georgia O’Keeffe

23. “Anyone who doesn’t feel the crosses simply doesn’t get that country.” — Georgia O’Keeffe

24. “I’m getting to like you so tremendously that it sometimes scares me.” — Georgia O’Keeffe

25. “My pleasant disposition likes the world with nobody in it.” — Georgia O’Keeffe

Life advice thanks to these Georgia O’Keeffe quotes

26. “You get whatever accomplishment you are willing to declare.” — Georgia O’Keeffe

27. “The days you work are the best days.” — Georgia O’Keeffe

28. “One can not be an American by going about saying that one is an American. It is necessary to feel America, like America, love America, and then work.” — Georgia O’Keeffe

29. “Marks on paper are free – free speech – press-pictures all go together, I suppose.” — Georgia O’Keeffe

30. “It’s not enough to be nice in life. You’ve got to have nerve.” ― Georgia O’Keeffe

31. “Whether you succeed or not is irrelevant, there is no such thing. Making your unknown known is the important thing—and keeping the unknown always beyond you.” — Georgia O’Keeffe

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32. “Sun-bleached bones were most wonderful against the blue – that blue that will always be there as it is now after all man’s destruction is finished.” — Georgia O’Keeffe

33. “Nothing is less real than realism. Details are confusing. It is only by selection, by elimination, by emphasis, that we get at the real meaning of things.” — Georgia O’Keeffe

34. “Someone else’s vision will never be as good as your own vision of yourself. Live and die with it ’cause in the end, it’s all you have. Lose it and you lose yourself and everything else. I should have listened to myself.” — Georgia O’Keeffe

35. “Come quickly. You mustn’t miss the dawn. It will never be just like this again.” — Georgia O’Keeffe

Georgia O’Keeffe quotes on inner thoughts and musings

36. “I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way – things I had no words for.” — Georgia O’Keeffe

37. “I’ve been absolutely terrified every moment of my life – and I’ve never let it keep me from doing a single thing I wanted to do.” — Georgia O’Keeffe

38. “I decided to start anew, to strip away what I had been taught.” — Georgia O’Keeffe

39. “I have things in my head that are not like what anyone has taught me – shapes and ideas so near to me – so natural to my way of being and thinking that it hasn’t occurred to me to put them down.” — Georgia O’Keeffe

40. “I feel there is something unexplored about woman that only a woman can explore.” — Georgia O’Keeffe

If you’re enjoying these quotes, make sure to read our collection of explore quotes about the power of travel and adventure.

41. “I had to create an equivalent for what I felt about what I was looking at – not copy it.” — Georgia O’Keeffe

42. “I often lay on that bench looking up into the tree, past the trunk, and up into the branches. It was particularly fine at night with the stars above the tree.” — Georgia O’Keeffe

43. “I have already settled it for myself so flattery and criticism go down the same drain and I am quite free.” — Georgia O’Keeffe

44. “I think it’s so foolish for people to want to be happy. Happy is so momentary—you’re happy for an instant, and then you start thinking again. Interest is the most important thing in life; happiness is temporary, but interest is continuous.” — Georgia O’Keeffe

45. “Where I was born and where and how I have lived is unimportant. It is what I have done with where I have been that should be of interest.” — Georgia O’Keeffe

46. “My first memory is of light — the brightness of light — light all around.” — Georgia O’Keeffe

47. “I decided to accept as true my own thinking.” — Georgia O’Keeffe

More Georgia O’Keeffe quotes and sayings

48. “The unexplainable thing in nature that makes me feel the world is big fat beyond my understanding—to understand maybe by trying to put it into form. To find the feeling of infinity on the horizon line or just over the next hill.” — Georgia O’Keeffe

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49. “I do not like the idea of happiness — it is too momentary.” — Georgia O’Keeffe

50. “I wish so much to go that I almost wish I had never been there.” — Georgia O’Keeffe

51. “Filling a space in a beautiful way – that is what art means to me.” – Georgia O’Keeffe

52. “Imagination makes you see all sorts of things.” – Georgia O’Keeffe

53. “God told me if I painted that mountain enough, I could have it.” – Georgia O’Keeffe

54. “Happiness goes like the wind, but what is interesting stays.” – Georgia O’Keeffe

55. “My painting is what I have to give back to the world for what the world gives to me.” – Georgia O’Keeffe

56. “I don’t see why we ever think of what others think of what we do – no matter who they are. Isn’t it enough just to express yourself?” – Georgia O’Keeffe

57. “I’ve been afraid every single day of my life, but I’ve gone ahead and done it anyway.” – Georgia O’Keeffe

58. “When people read erotic symbols into my painting, they’re really thinking about their own affairs.” – Georgia O’Keeffe

59. “The painting is like a thread that runs through all the reasons for all the other things that make one’s life.” – Georgia O’Keeffe

60. “I like an empty wall because I can imagine what I like on it.” – Georgia O’Keeffe

What did you learn from these Georgia O’Keeffe quotes?

Many people believed that the flowers in Georgia’s work represented female genitalia, which she denied. Her husband, Alfred Stieglitz, was a photographer and art dealer. He had taken hundreds of pictures of her, most of them when she was nude, and displayed them.

This added to the idea that Georgia’s work had undercurrents of sexuality, which in the early 1900s was taboo. Georgia’s relationship with Alfred started as an affair, although the two later married. Years later he began having an affair with someone else, and Georgia was hospitalized for depression.

She had a nervous breakdown in 1933, not painting again until 1934. She went to New Mexico and bought a ranch house, splitting her time between there and NY, until Alfred’s death in 1946.

The view inspired some of her most famous landscapes, including Ram’s Head White Hollyhock and Little Hills. She dared to do things that people weren’t doing, and for that reason, Georgia O’Keeffe became a legend in the art world, and in the hearts of women. She holds the record of having the highest selling price for a painting by a female artist.

Reading through these quotes of hers, I felt like she could just be my new hero! She seemed like the type of badass woman who would do it her own way.

Do you have any other Georgia O’Keeffe quotes and sayings to share? Leave them in the comment section below.

Danielle Dahl, Lead Contributor
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