Georgia O’Keeffe is a 20th-century American painter best known for her flower canvases and southwestern landscapes,….she has always been a silent mentor and rock star in my eyes and heavily influenced my earlier watercolors. In my research as I found out more about her deep devotion to her own chow chows….I became even more entranced by this amazing woman.
Georgia O’Keeffe was a member of the Chow Chow Club Inc. in 1972 and a copy of her membership certificate is on the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum website
She attended the CCCI National Specialty in 1973 in Fort Worth Texas, with her agent at the time Doris Bry. where they met Dr. Samuel Draper, author, breeder, judge, and owner of Liontamer Kennels
As a result of their meeting, Miss O’Keeffe and Doris Bry made a trip to Liontamer Kennels to visit Dr. Sam in Monroe NY where she described each of his chows as only an artist could “this dog’s head is a giant orange chrysanthemum”…..”and this one is a magnificent scarlet pin cushion” (source The Book of the Chow Chow by Samuel Draper)
Many of these images of her chows were tucked into an online archive that I started digging into and found some unbelievable treasures. Image credit: Georgia O’Keeffe Museum and archives
A neighbor gave Georgia two blue Chow puppies she named Bo and Chia for Christmas in 1953. Bo was her favorite, but sadly he was hit by a truck and killed. But she became devoted to the Chow breed and ended up having six during her lifetime including Bobo, Jinga, and Inca. She referred to her chows fondly as “Little People”. Once Georgia owned a chow…it was the only breed she had thereafter.
NEW INFORMATION ADDED NOVEMBER 15, 2016 – From Chow Chow Club Inc. historian Dottie Everett. JoAnne O’Brien she mentions was the owner of Linnchow Kennels, daughter of an equally successful family in the breed since the 1930s. Thank you, Dottie, for this valuable information.
“Sandra did you know that two of Georgia O’Keeffe’s Chows came from JoAnne O’Brien’s LinnChow Kennel? JoAnne told me about it and showed me a letter from Georgia O’Keeffe thanking her for “the wonderful companions “
Here is a pedigree from the Georgia O’Keeffe website for the blue male chow INCA which has Linnchow dogs in the pedigree, however, JoAnne O’Brien is not listed as the breeder on this particular dog.
Photo courtesy Georgia O’Keeffe museum website
“O’Keeffe’s life was very much centered around her Chows: “they sleep in my room at night and in the day are always just outside the door.” One hot summer days she refused to embark on her annual painting trips by car, fearing the weather was dangerous for her pets and she declined to install a new heater in her New Mexico ranch as the only place it would fit was her dog’s favorite sleeping spot. She even commissioned a shawl to be made from her dogs’ coats once they shed in spring.
Bo (or Bobo or Beau, as she also referred to him) was the favorite of all O’Keeffe’s canine friends; “big with a strong smooth coat,” she described him as the “town boss” of Abiquiu, where he had a fierce reputation. When he died, O’Keeffe buried Bo under a cedar tree and wrote, “I like to think that probably he goes running and leaping through the White Hills alone in the night.” O’Keeffe’s final companion was Jingo, a red Chow who died not long before the artist herself.” ~text by Daisy Woodward
As an artist myself, my breath was literally taken away when I saw Georgia O’Keeffe’s work at an exhibition in San Francisco for the first time in person. I walked into the exhibit room and was completely taken aback by the massive scale of the paintings …..tears instantly started flowing. I looked around to see if I was totally embarrassing myself and saw that most of the other attendees were moved to tears as well.
Marisol sculpture in San Francisco of Georgia O’Keefe and her chows
Below is an incredible video of O’Keeffe talking about her work, at her home in New Mexico in 1977. She was nearly 90 at the time.
CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE ABOUT GEORGIA O’KEEFFE AT THE MUSEUM WEBSITE
- NAME: Georgia O’Keeffe
- OCCUPATION: Painter
- BIRTHDATE: November 15, 1887
- DEATH DATE: March 06, 1986
- EDUCATION: Art Institute of Chicago
- PLACE OF BIRTH: Sun Prairie, Wisconsin
- PLACE OF DEATH: Santa Fe, New Mexico
Anne-Marie Lopez says
Thank you for taking the time to assemble all this Chow information in one place. Most Chow lovers truly appreciate & respect the breed, & enjoy learning interesting historical information about them that you can’t find in just a Chow Book. I have always loved Georgia O’Keefe’s artwork, but to know she was also a Chow lover touched my heart. I started with a big Blue Chow & like her, when he passed he left footprints on my heart forever. I have since had two more Chows and a Samoyed, but he is still my favorite. I just wanted you to know how nice it is to see photos & read old stories about this special breed, and to say I appreciate it. Thank you
Hello Anne-Marie, I’m so sorry I somehow missed this comment of yours when you wrote it. I think we were on holiday and I wasn’t paying attention. Your words mean so much to me. This archive is a real labor or love and I am always so happy when others love to read these unique stories about our breed. There is so much to write about I only wish I had more hours in the day!!! Again THANK YOU for your kind words and taking the time to stop in and comment. BIG CHOW HUGS and purple smooches!!!! ~Sandra
Ann Armstrong says
I stumbled across the Marisol sculpture in San Francisco some years ago and was amazed to learn that O’Keeffe was a chow chow fan as I had two chow chows too! I love the breed and I love O’Keeffe’s work (I am an art historian). On Friday I said goodbye to my beloved Mao and I’m not sure I will ever replace him. It’s funny how O’Keeffe had a favorite, as did someone else leaving a comment. I am trying to stay strong for Jet — we bought her as a companion to Mao and he would want me to take care of her.
But he was my world. It’s also funny that chows often come in pairs. A friend noticed that and just last week I met a pair being walked by their young owner.
Ann I am so happy to hear from you and am excited you love chows too!! I am so very sorry to hear about your loss of Mao!
Wonderful write up and collection of photos, Sandra! Georgia O’Keeffe and Chows – I didn’t know, and I love both. Thank you!
Frederick I’m so happy you liked this page on Georgia O’Keeffe!!! Thank YOU for stopping by to take a peek!!! Big hugs to you my friend!
Patricia Kennedy says
As a lover of Chow Chows, I was thrilled to find this lovely series of articles about them. Thank you!!! Having gone on many walks with my two Chows, I am aware of how they like to place themselves to guard their owners and I must point out (surely I’m not the first) that there are definitely two dogs (one several yards in front, one just behind G.O’K.) in the photograph entitled: “Georgia O’Keeffe on Evening Walk with her Dog, Ghost Ranch, by John Loengard, 1966 This is another masterfully photographed scene of the artist on an outing with her chow”
Sandra Miller says
I’m so glad you like the articles Patricia! Thank you for taking the time to comment. Yes the second chow is far ahead. I always wondered why the title of the piece was “chow” vs “chows” but I wanted to title it correctly. This is truly one of my favorite photos featuring chows of all time!
Marilyn Blotsky says
It’s not a surprise that once a Chow Chow touches your soul we seem to find the breed a lifetime companion. I don’t have a favorite, of my past 5 Chows, but when they do leave you It’s devastating.