She was born in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin. She studied painting at the Art Institute of Chicago and the Art Students' League in New York City. She took a job teaching in Amarillo, Texas in 1914, and in 1916 took another teaching job in South Carolina.
While she was in South Carolina, a friend of hers showed some of her paintings to the photographer and art gallery owner Alfred Stieglitz, who was impressed by her work. After some negotiations, O'Keeffe allowed Stieglitz to exhibit her. Stieglitz was especially impressed with O'Keeffe's paintings of landscapes in the American West. Stieglitz lived with O'Keeffe for a while when she returned to New York City, but O'Keeffe wanted to move west, and Stieglitz was uncomfortable with travel.
O'Keeffe spent much of her time in Taos, New Mexico, and when Stieglitz died in 1946, she took up permanent residence there, living in Taos or Santa Fe until her death in 1986. O'Keeffe is known chiefly for her landscapes and paintings of desert flowers.
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