My Faraway One: Selected Letters, Volume One, By Georgia O'Keeffe & Alfred Stieglitz
Thursday 10 November 2011
"Living is such a tangle – I've only started on this – but – I'll stop." So wrote farm-born artist Georgia O'Keeffe in 1916, a few months after she had begun a correspondence with well-heeled, married photographer Alfred Stieglitz. It would continue across thousands of pages during a tumultuous and stimulating relationship which only ended with his death, 30 years later.
Their passion extended to sharing that Byronic penchant for a frequent dash, a paramount punctuation mark redolent of their restless appetite for the terrain around them. Each day brought new discovery. She regaled him with descriptions of Wisconsin, Texas and, above all, the New Mexico known by DH Lawrence. He was as attuned to the vistas that comprise Manhattan, albeit with excursions to his cherished Lake George. It was there, amid late-summer thunder and lightning, that he, 23 years her senior, took the 31-year-old's virginity in 1918.
That event was to be regularly revisited in his letters to her; and her description was as unbuttoned as his. Whatever her floral subjects, she was now no blushing violet. Indeed, the sexual stamen is a familiar feature of her work. Some have almost derided this correspondence as semi-crazed, a torrent. If taken steadily, however, the 800 large pages of My Faraway One (edited by Sarah Greenough, with a second volume to follow) are an absorbing example of the way artistic order emerges from quotidian chaos.
She writes of somebody washing up at a sink, "I always wanted to write monotonous noises like that, and I don't know how to write anything". Yet she had done so in that very paragraph, as she does across this fascinating, highly populated volume. It is full of sound, not least from Stieglitz's attempts to capture the plosives of a kiss to his remarking "– Georgia O'Keeffe – it's like a very beautiful folk melody – the sound. Georgia O'Keeffe." Add her middle name – Totto – and it might have a dash of Schoenberg.
Well produced, and keenly priced, this volume also gains from concise footnotes. As they should, they lie at the bottom of the page rather than forced into that current, misbegotten vogue for fractured narrative that is the "life in letters".
Order for £25.20 (free p&p) from the Independent Bookshop: 08430 600 030
Is the comedy album making a comeback?comedy
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Sabina Altynbekova, the girl branded 'too good looking' for volleyball, says social media obsession with her is a 'bit much'
- 2 Disney heiress Abigail disowns her share of family profits in West Bank company
- 3 The secret report that helps Israel hide facts
- 4 'Women should not laugh in public,' says Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister in morality speech
- 5 Israel's propaganda machine is finally starting to misfire
Led Zeppelin to release alternative Stairway To Heaven after 43 years
Freddie Prinze Jr on 24: 'Kiefer Sutherland was the most unprofessional dude in the world – I hated every moment of it'
Guardians of the Galaxy review: A superficial and half-hearted Marvel film
Great British Bake Off 2014 contestants revealed: Meet the baker's dozen
R Kelly 'dropped' from Ohio music festival following backlash
The secret report that helps Israel hide facts
Woman and two children killed by mob in riots over 'blasphemous' Facebook post in Pakistan
A day in the life of Vladimir Putin: The dictator in his labyrinth
Putin is 'thuggish, dishonest and reckless', says British ambassador to US
Richard Dawkins tweets: 'Date rape is bad, stranger rape is worse'
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – Britain as others see us
- < Previous
- Next >