Red Hills and Bones, 1941 by Georgia O'Keeffe

O'keeffe's most effective composition of bones in the landscape appeared in 1941, with Red Hills and Bone; the large canvas is also among her most ambitions evocations of the arid country of which she was by then an owner, having purchased the house at Ghost Ranch the preceding year. In 1939, O'Keeffe had written of the bones as "strangely more living than the animals walking around," and in 1941 painting her response is given visual form.

The bleached vertebrae in the foreground arch naturally, establishing a rhythm that is repeated in the red bumps of hills stretching upward to the margin of the canvas. The scalar relationships between the foreground bones and the background hills is ambiguous; the closely viewed skeletal parts dominate the foreground, but nothing mediates between the bony "here" and the distant "there". In short, the middle ground seems to have dropped out of O'Keefe's composition, just as it had in the heads hovering above the desert horizons of a few years earlier, in Ram's Head with Hollyhock.