Home » Biography & Memoir » Sharon M. FitzgeraldMA » The Influence of Zen Buddhism on the Art of Georgia O'Keeffe

May 14 , 2009

The Influence of Zen Buddhism on the Art of Georgia O'Keeffe


Long before Georgia O’Keeffe started painting flowers or the great landscapes of the Southwest, she explored total abstraction and monochrome palate beginning in 1912. She delved deep into the world of Zen Buddhist inspired art making to get to the very essence of thing, not an imitation, but the TRUTH…the Zen way of seeing the world…

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There is a plethora of influences that have determined the character of American art, and often, they are propelled by various external cultural influences. The question for this study has been twofold. First, whether within the large fabric of American art’s interrelated influences there has been a transmission of Zen Buddhist philosophy from the Japanese culture? Second and more specifically, did the introduction of Zen Buddhist art making, introduced by Alon Bemont, Ernest Fenollosa, and Arthur Westley Dow, influence the works of Georgia O’Keeffe?

This book is an attempt to define a particular turning point in O’Keeffe’s journey as an artist and the players and publications who contributed.  She opened her mind to new ideas and a new way of “seeing” the world around her. It is this particular turning point, a time in her life that is little known, that is what this book is about.

“In Zen, the meanings often lie beyond language but can be revealed in visual form…To approach this reality with a Western background or common sense is not possible-in order to understand Zen one must experience it first-hand.” Quote from Zen and Oriental Art, by Munsterberg, H. 

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