Georgia O'Keeffe Museum 217 Johnson Street Santa Fe, NM 87501
Georgia O'Keeffe Museum
Frances O'Brien Papers Relating to Georgia O'Keeffe
c. 1927-1993, undated (inclusive)
2.63 Linear Feet
Collection includes materials related
to the friendship between Georgia O'Keeffe and Frances O'Brien. The bulk of the items are
letters from Georgia O'Keeffe to Frances O'Brien dating 1927-1973.
Biographical and Historical Note
Frances O'Brien (1904-1990) was born in Rochester and attended Vassar College, the Corcoran
Art School in Washington and the Art Students League in Manhattan and Philadelphia. O'Brien
was a student of George Luks and studied at the Louvre with Hans Hofmann, the
O'Brien was a professional portrait artist and depicted notable individuals such as Irving
Berlin, President Dwight D. Eisenhower, William L. Shirer, Winston S. Churchill, Eleanor
Roosevelt, Grandma Moses and many other well-known subjects. For many years, she did cover
portraits for magazines, primarily The Saturday Review.
O'Brien and Georgia O'Keeffe met and became friends while both were living in New York
City. During the period when O'Brien was a student at the Art Students League, O'Brien
became O'Keeffe's protege and they painted together at Lake George. Later, O'Brien and
O'Keeffe shared an apartment in New York City shortly after O'Keeffe's husband, Alfred
Stieglitz, died in 1946. O'Keeffe was spending more time in New Mexico and kept the
apartment as a pied-a-terre. O'Brien primarily used the apartment when O'Keeffe was not in
residence. During this time, O'Keeffe was working with her assistant, Doris Bry (also using
the apartment), to catalog and distribute the Stieglitz estate and O'Brien was painting
portraits for magazine covers. The women corresponded regularly and stayed in touch once
they both settled in the southwest. O'Keeffe visited O'Brien in Arizona and O'Brien came to
New Mexico several times.
O'Brien's marriage to George Garfield of Princeton, N.J., ended in divorce. They had one
son together, Brian Garfield
Scope and Contents Note
The Frances O'Brien Papers Relating to Georgia O'Keeffe contains materials collected by
Frances O'Brien. The materials document the friendship between the two women from the
mid-1940s to the early 1970s.
There are approximately one hundred original letters, postcards, and telegrams from
O'Keeffe to O'Brien dating from 1947 to 1971. Additionally, there are photocopies of letters
from O'Keeffe to O'Brien (only a few photocopies for which there is no original), as well as
photocopies of letters from O'Brien to O'Keeffe. In these letters, the O'Keeffe writes about
work, her daily activities, and travel. O'Keeffe often misspells O'Brien's first name,
Frances, as Francis. O'Brien and O'Keeffe make reference to the "salt mines", which is
explained in an interview with Nancy Wall in March 1986 when O'Brien states "we called
ourselves the salt miners because we were always working". Original letters have been
The photographs in this collection exist only as low resolution digital images. The
majority of the photographs were taken between 1949 and 1971 when O'Brien visited O'Keeffe
in New Mexico or O'Keeffe visited O'Brien in Arizona.
Also included are interviews with Frances O'Brien conducted by Nancy Wall between 1986 and
1987. In these interviews, O'Brien covers a range of topics but mostly focuses on her
friendship with O'Keeffe. The recordings are unedited. Additional audiovisual materials
include an interview from 1987 with Dan Budnik conducted by Nancy Wall and raw video footage
of an interview with O'Brien conducted by Catherine Busch-Johnson for "The Face of Wisdom:
Stories of Elder Women".
Original letters, the photographs, and interviews with Frances O'Brien are available online
in digital format.
One videocassette separated and added to the Research Center
Library collection: Harris, Julie, and Catherine Busch-Johnston. The Face of Wisdom: Stories
of Elder Women. St. Louis, Mo: Phoenix/BFA Films and Video, 1994. Call number HD6056 .F333
Arrangement of Collection
The collection is arranged into five series: Series 1 Correspondence, Series 2 Notes and
Writings, Series 3 Printed Material, Series 4 Photographic Material, and Series 5 Audiovisual
Frances O'Brien Papers, c. 1927-1993, undated. Georgia O'Keeffe Museum.
The collection was donated to the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum by Brian and Bina Garfield in
honor of Frances O'Brien in 2015.
Processing of this collection was completed by Elizabeth Ehrnst in 2015.
Ownership and Rights
This collection is the physical
property of the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum. The Museum holds literary rights only for material
created by Museum personnel or given to the Museum with such rights specifically assigned.
The collection is subject to all copyright laws. The researcher assumes full responsibility
for observing all copyright, property, and libel laws as they apply. Contact the Archivist
for further copyright and publication information as it pertains to this
The collection is open to the public for research purposes.
Copy and Reproduction Restrictions
Photocopies or digital images of materials may be made for research purposes only.
Brian, b. 1939
O'Keeffe, Georgia, 1887-1986
Letters from Frances O'Brien to Georgia O'Keeffe are located in the Alfred Stieglitz /
Georgia O'Keeffe Archive, Yale Collection of American Literature at the Beinecke Rare Book
and Manuscript Library.
The collection is open to the public for research purposes.
Photocopies or digital images of materials may be made for research purposes only. This collection is the physical property of the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum. The Museum holds literary rights only for material created by Museum personnel or given to the Museum with such rights specifically assigned. The collection is subject to all copyright laws. The researcher assumes full responsibility for observing all copyright, property, and libel laws as they apply. Contact the Archivist for further copyright and publication information as it pertains to this collection.