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.
The Formal Experiments of Georgia O’Keeffe

Georgia O’Keeffe, the second of seven children, was born on a farm in Wisconsin. O’Keeffe’s mother encouraged her to pursue art. In 1905, she enrolled at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and, beginning in 1907, she attended the Art Students League in New York, studying there under William Merritt Chase. Her first art job was as a commercial artist. A drawing class taught by Alon Bement at the University of Virginia Summer School introduced O’Keeffe to the work of Arthur Wesley Dow, whose progressive ideas influenced her art. In 1916, the New York art dealer, Alfred Stieglitz, first exhibited O’Keeffe’s work in his 291 gallery. The two cultivated a relationship and eventually wed in 1924. O’Keeffe began making compositions of enlarged natural forms, which became her signature style. Between 1929 and 1949, O’Keeffe spent each year working in New Mexico and the region influenced her selection of subject matter. After Stieglitz died, O’Keeffe moved to a home she had purchased in Abiquiu, New Mexico. 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, an enormous skeletal form rises majestically from the flat foreground. In the distance, a mountain range defines a low horizon line. O’Keeffe’s radical distortion of scale and perspective is striking in this painting. The foreground is dominated by the bone’s elegant contours, exemplifying 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.”

Lyons, Barbara Buhler, Leslie Polling-Kempes, and Frederick W. Turner. Georgia O’Keeffe and New Mexico: A Sense of Place. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2004.

Purchased from the artist 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

Georgia O'Keeffe (American, 1887-1986)
creation date
oil on canvas
23-7/8 x 29-3/4 in. (canvas)
25 x 31-1/16 x 1-5/8 in. (framed)
accession number
credit line
Gift of Anne Marmon Greenleaf in memory of Caroline Marmon Fesler
© Georgia O'Keeffe Museum / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
American Painting and Sculpture to 1945

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