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Cow's Skull with Calico Roses

Georgia O'Keeffe1931

The Art Institute of Chicago

The Art Institute of Chicago

In 1930 Georgia O’Keeffe witnessed a drought in the Southwest that caused the starvation of many animals, whose skeletons littered the landscape. She was fascinated by these bones and shipped a number back to New York so she could paint them. She noted, “To me they are as beautiful as anything I know . . . The bones seem to cut sharply to the center of something that is keenly alive on the desert even tho’ it is vast and empty and untouchable.”” In “Cow’s Skull with Calico Roses,” O’Keeffe added a macabre note by decorating the skull with artificial flowers, the kind used to adorn graves in New Mexico. Alfred Stieglitz exhibited this painting at his gallery An American Place between 1931 and 1932.

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