Never Promised You a Rose Garden

Kathryn Hughes writes in the Telegraph of Georgia O’Keefe:

To an audience just getting to grips with popular Freudianism, her semi-abstract studies of flowers and shells seemed to suggest vaginas, wombs and clitorises. With some determined nudging from Stieglitz, O’Keeffe had become a symbol of female emancipation, representative of the new generation of socially and sexually confident women emerging in the wake of the Great War.

Seemed to suggest? Seemed to?

When I first moved to Dublin I stayed in a flat whose landlord had decorated the place on a shoestring budget, but with some aspiration toward tastefulness, with lime green carpets and terracotta wall paint. If that sounds not very tasteful at all, I can only imagine you never went flat-hunting in Dublin 8 at the turn of the century, where the general rule was the furrier the wallpaper and the thicker the dado rails the better, with bonus points for getting the place to exude a smell of Donegal Catch.

But anyway, the piece de resistance of the exquisitely decorated cardboard hovel I ended up renting was a series of Georgia O’Keefe prints in the kitchen and living room, and let me tell you that after contemplating them every day for years on end, I can confirm that there’s nothing suggestive about them. Unless, perhaps, I’m still just getting to grips with popular Freudianism.

By the way, can paintings have audiences?


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