LVI History of Art Trip: America’s Cool Modernism: O’Keeffe to Hopper at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford

This term, the LVI (Year 12) Art Historians have been studying the career of pioneering American artist Georgia O’Keeffe. Given that the examination of this ‘American Modern’ in her wider cultural and social context occupies such a crucial place in the new A Level specification, the rare opportunity to view the work of O’Keeffe alongside those of her contemporaries was too good to miss. Both cool in its novel hipness and in its sense of isolation and detachment, the photography and painting produced by the circle of O’Keeffe and the photographer Alfred Stieglitz sought to record and contest the modern experience in its uniquely American manifestation. The Ashmolean Museum had also been able to secure the loan of three major works by Edward Hopper and these captivated the girls with their sense of eeriness and ambivalence shown towards the ‘America Dream’.

We also took the opportunity to view highlights of the museum’s permanent collection such as the equally icy Mannerist portraits by Bronzino and the radical Victorian art of the Pre-Raphaelites that shared O’Keeffe’s interest in a precise recording of detail influenced by photography.

Dr Penelope Wickson, Head of History of Art