Monday, October 22, 2018

Georgia O'Keeffe: 'The Flag' (1918)

Last year in October, while checking out a First World War art exhibition at the Frist Art Museum in Nashville, I was fascinated to learn that Georgia O'Keeffe (1887-1986) had opposed intervention, that she had a brother who died as a result of the war, and that she painted The Flag early in 1918 to indicate her revulsion. 

Since then, I've come across additional details about The Flag and Georgia's brother. Alexius (Alexis) Wyckoff "Tex" O'Keeffe (1892-1930) was an officer in the 32nd Division of the US Army, stationed, along with thousands of other soldiers from his home state of Wisconsin, as well as thousands from Michigan, at Camp MacArthur, in the vicinity of Waco, Texas, starting in 1917. 
Fred A. Gildersleeve, Officers, 32nd Division, Camp MacArthur, Waco, Tex., Dec. 23, 1917. Library of Congress. 
The 32nd Division saw heavy combat on the Western Front in 1918, and Tex was badly wounded by poison gas, not enough to kill him outright (as some accounts erroneously suggest), but enough to cause him to die in his thirties, more than a decade after the war's end, finally taken out by Influenza.

When "Tex" was sent to Waco in 1917, Georgia was teaching at the West Texas State Normal School in Canyon, about twenty miles south of Amarillo in the Panhandle; she was the head of the one-person art department. By October of 1917, she "seethed with impatience over the conformity and pettiness of the Canyon community." (Hunter Drohojowska-Philp, Full Bloom: The Art and Life of Georgia O'Keeffe, New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2004, p. 144).

Georgia came down with a case of the Spanish Influenza early in 1918, and took refuge with a friend at Waring, Texas (about forty-four miles north northwest of San Antonio); she painted The Flag in San Antonio.

Not surprisingly, Georgia's teaching career at the West Texas State Normal School ended in 1918.

The Flag was not shown in public until 1968, during the American War in Vietnam, the year of the Prague Spring and the Paris uprising -- in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Its permanent home is at the Milwaukee Art Museum. For more information, here is a link.

Today's Rune: Signals. 

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