While this is a dramatized account of the life of celebrated painter Georgia O'Keeffe there is actually very little in it about her painting. Yes, she is shown painting and several of her exhibitions are in the film, but these things are really in the background as it is her relationship with photographer Alfred Stieglitz that is the focal point of the film. We go through the ups and downs of their affair and he eventual breakdown once she learns of his infidelities the on to her recovery in the desert of New Mexico. You do not have to be a fan of her work or even to aware of it as this is mostly the story of a woman in love.
Georgia O'Keeffe (Joan Allen – The Bourne Ultimatum, The Ice Storm), a female painter trying to start up her career, meets the eccentric photographer Alfred Stieglitz (Jeremy Irons – Die Hard with a Vengeance, Being Julia). They don't get off on the right foot as she felt he was showing her paintings without her permission, but they soon right the ship and a love affair blooms. It doesn't seem to matter that Stieglitz is married as he just moves on to O'Keeffe.
The affair between the two creative beings is passionate and tumultuous. They go through more ups and downs than a roller coaster. Despite the unstable nature of their relationship Stieglitz decides to leave his wife and marry O'Keeffe. At this point she has become a successful and well-respected painter. Though Stieglitz is great for O'Keeffe's career he is not so good for her mental well-being.
Marriage does not settle Stieglitz as he is jealous/intimidated by his wife's ever emerging talent. He begins to feel like he is standing in her shadow, which he cannot tolerate. A man with a wounded pride, Stieglitz begins to develop ways to emotionally damage his wife. The biggest betrayal is when he has an affair with a younger ingénue. He doesn't even really try to hide it from his wife.
Once O'Keeffe opens her eyes to what is happening right beneath her nose she is crushed. A mental breakdown ensues and O'Keeffe escapes to a remote area of New Mexico. There her talent comes to the forefront, as a painter she truly discovers her own voice and she even becomes what can best be described as a protofeminist.
This Lifetime television film was one of the more nominated films of the year. It got nominations from the Golden Globes, Directors Guild Award, Producers Guild Awards, Writers Guild Awards, Screen Actors Guild Awards, NAACP Image Awards. Most of the accolades for the success of the film can be placed squarely on Joan Allen's performance. She becomes Georgia O'Keeffe in a way that is so complete that it is almost scary. The pain she goes through and the compassion she makes the viewer feel for this woman are a result of the strong performance.
Though the focus of the picture is not her art it does make one want to immerse themselves in it after having watched the film.
-Portrait of an Artist: The Making of Georgia O'Keefe