Cow's Skull: Red, White, and Blue, 1931. Georgia O'Keeffe. Oil on canvas. Alfred Stieglitz Collection, 1952.
Weary of life in the metropolis, O’Keeffe began taking regular retreats to Lake George, New York, and then to New Mexico. After her first extended trip to the Southwest in 1929, her artistic interests shifted from the buildings of New York to the nature of New Mexico. In this work, O’Keeffe isolates a single skull, highlighting its jagged edges, worn surfaces, and bleached color. To O’Keeffe, such bones represented the desert’s enduring beauty and the strength of the American spirit, which is alluded to in the striped background. In 1949 O’Keeffe settled permanently in New Mexico, where she lived until her death in 1986.