Pelvis with the Distance

Pelvis with the Distance

Georgia O'Keeffe (American, 1887-1986)

Currently on View in K203
Image Licensing

  • The radical manipulation of perspective and scale, and the strong but elegant contours of the bone in this work exemplify O'Keeffe's genius for capturing the essential forms of nature.
  • From 1943 until 1947, O’Keeffe painted a series of works in which sun-bleached pelvic bones are prominently situated within the natural environment of the Southwest.
  • A distinctly American artist, O’Keeffe never trained in Europe. She found her inspiration in the skyscrapers of New York City, and after 1929, in the bones, landscapes, and flowers of New Mexico.
Curatorial Summary

Georgia O’Keeffe was born on a farm in Wisconsin, the second of seven children. Her mother sent the girls to art classes and encouraged O’Keeffe to continue her training. She attended Town Hall School in Wisconsin and studied with a watercolorist. O’Keeffe then enrolled at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and attended the Art Students League in New York, where she studied under William Merritt Chase. Her first art job was as a commercial artist, and she also taught art in an elementary school in Texas. O’Keeffe attended a class at the University of Virginia Summer School where she was introduced to the work of Arthur Wesley Dow. His free-thinking opinions on creating art were a major influence on her. Without O’Keeffe’s permission, a friend took her drawings to the New York art dealer, Alfred Stieglitz, whose 291 gallery showed the work of the most advanced abstract artists. Stieglitz exhibited her drawings. When O’Keeffe learned of this display, she confronted Stieglitz but let the drawings hang. Although Stieglitz was much older than O’Keeffe, he divorced his wife and the two were married.

O’Keeffe began making large-scale compositions containing highly magnified natural forms, which became her signature style. Between 1929 and 1949, she regularly worked in New Mexico, and the area became a major theme in her art. After Stieglitz died, O’Keeffe moved to a home she had purchased in Abiquiu, New Mexico, and made the area around it a theme for many of her paintings. The Georgia O’Keeffe Museum was established in Santa Fe, New Mexico, in 1997, and her home and studio in Abiquiu became a National Historic landmark in 1998.

In Pelvis with Distance O’Keeffe juxtaposed an enormous skeletal form rising majestically from the flat foreground with a mountain range lying low on the horizon. The radical manipulation of scale and perspective, and the strong but elegant contours of the bone, exemplify O’Keeffe’s genius for capturing the essential forms of nature. O’Keeffe wrote to collector Caroline Marmon Fesler about her bone series, “It is a kind of thing that I do that makes me feel I am going off into space – in a way that I like – and that frightens me a little because it is so unlike what anyone else is doing – I always feel that sometime I may fall off the edge – It is something I like so much to do that I don’t care if I do fall off the edge –”

References

“About the Museum.” Georgia O’Keeffe Museum. 2018. https://www.okeeffemuseum.org/about-the-museum/. Accessed July 17, 2018.

Day, Holliday T. Indianapolis Museum of Art Collections Handbook. Indianapolis: Indianapolis Museum of Art, 1988.

Lisle, Laurie. Portrait of an Artist: A Biography of Georgia O’Keeffe. New York: Seaview Books, 1980.

O’Keeffe, Georgia. Georgia O’Keeffe to Caroline Marmon Fesler, December 24, 1945, New York. In Georgia O’Keeffe: Art and Letters, edited by Sarah Greenough. Washington, DC: National Gallery of Art, 1987. O’Keeffe’s quote is on pages 242-243.

Artist, purchased by Caroline Marmon Fesler, Indianapolis, Indiana; by descent to Anne Marmon Greenleaf, Indianapolis, Indiana, in 1960; given to the Indianapolis Museum of Art in 1977.

Object Information

artist
Georgia O'Keeffe (American, 1887-1986)
creation date
1943
materials
oil on canvas
dimensions
23-7/8 x 29-3/4 in. (canvas)
25 x 31-1/16 x 1-5/8 in. (framed)
mark descriptions
not inscribed
accession number
77.229
credit line
Gift of Anne Marmon Greenleaf in memory of Caroline Marmon Fesler
copyright
© Georgia O'Keeffe Museum / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
collection
American Painting and Sculpture to 1945
colors

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