About This Artwork

Georgia O'Keeffe
American, 1887–1986

Cow's Skull with Calico Roses, 1931

Oil on canvas
91.4 x 61 cm (36 x 24 in.)

Alfred Stieglitz Collection, gift of Georgia O'Keeffe, 1947.712

© 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.

— Permanent collection label

Exhibition, Publication and Ownership Histories

Exhibition History

New York, Museum of Modern Art, American Painting and Sculpture, 1862-1932, October 31, 1932-January 31, 1933, no. 76.

Art Institute of Chicago, Georgia O’Keeffe, January 21-February 22, 1943, no. 45.

Philadelphia Museum of Art, History of an American: Alfred Stieglitz, 291 and After, July 1-November 1, 1944.

New York, Museum of Modern Art, Exhibition of Georgia O’Keeffe, May 14-August 25, 1946, no. 43.

Washington D.C., National Gallery of Art, Georgia O'Keefe: Art and Letters, November 1, 1987-February 21, 1988; traveled to Art Institute of Chicago, March 5-June 19, 1988; Dallas Museum of Art, July 31-October 16, 1988; Metropolitan Museum of Art, November 19, 1988-February 5, 1989, cat. 75.

Washington D.C., The Phillips Collection, Georgia O’Keefe & Alfred Stieglitz: Two Lives, A Conversation in Paintings and Photographs, December 12, 1992-April 4, 1993, cat. by Alexandra Arrowsmith and Thomas West, eds., ill. p. 113; New York, IBM Gallery of Science and Arts, April 27- June 26, 1993; Minneapolis, July 17-September 12, 1993; Houston, The Museum of Fine Arts, October 2-December 5, 1993.

Tokyo, ASAHI Shimbun, "Masterworks of Modern Art from The Art Institute of Chicago," traveled to Nagaoka, Niigata Prefectural Museum of Modern Art, Apr. 20-May 29, 1994, Nagoya, Aichi Prefectural Museum of Art, June 10-July 24, 1994, Yokohama Museum of Art Aug. 6-Sept. 25, 1994.

Washington, D.C., National Gallery of Art, Modern Art and America: Alfred Stieglitz and His New York Galleries, January 28-April 22, 2001, cat. 174.

Milwaukee Art Museum and Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, O’Keeffe’s O’Keeffes: The Artist’s Collection, May 5-August 19, 2001, traveled to Santa Fe, September 14, 2001-January 13, 2002; Denmark, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, February 8-May 20, 2002, cat. 56.

Art Institute of Chicago, "America After the Fall: Painting in the 1930s," June 5-September 18, 2016; travels to Paris, Musee de l'Orangerie, October 15, 2016-January 30, 2017; London, Royal Academy, February 25-June 4, 2017, cat. 38 (Paris and London only).

Publication History

Georgia O'Keeffe, James Warren Lane, and Leo Katz, The Work of Georgia O'Keeffe: A Portfolio of Twelve Paintings (Dial Press, 1939), n. pag.

Daniel Catton Rich, Exhibition of Paintings by Georgia O’Keeffe,” Bulletin of The Art Institute of Chicago, 37 (February 1943), p. 19.

-----. “The Stieglitz Collection,” Bulletin of The Art Institute of Chicago, 18 (November 15, 1949) ill. front cover.

Paintings in The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, 1961, p. 346.

Barbara Buhler Lynes, "Georgia O'Keeffe: Catalogue Raisonné," (National Gallery of Art/Georgia O'Keeffe Foundation/Yale University Press, 1999) no. 772 (vol. 1).

Judith A. Barter et al., "American Modernism at the Art Institute of Chicago, From World War I to 1955," (Art Institute of Chicago/Yale University Press, 2009), cat. 68.

Roy Matthews, DeWitt Platt, and Thomas Noble, "Experience Humanities" (McGraw-Hill Higher Education, 2013), 8th edition, (ill.).

Tanya Barson, ed. "Georgia O'Keeffe" exh. cat. (Tate Publishing, 2016) fig. 121.

"Paintings at the Art Institute of Chicago, Highlights of the Collection," (Art Institute of Chicago/Yale University Press, 2017) p. 117.

Ownership History

Given by the artist to the Art Institute through the Alfred Stieglitz Collection, 1947.

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