Deer Skull With Pedernal Analysis

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Georgia O’Keeffe’s ‘Deer Skull with Pedernal’, is an oil painting on canvas, 36” x 30 1/8”, completed in 1936. The painting shows iconic images of the southwestern United States, with a bleached deer skull and windblown pine tree in the foreground, and table top mountains in the background. O’Keefe made this painting on location in New Mexico, where she owned property that viewed the distant mesa named Pedernal. (MFA).

Looking closely at the painting, the composition contains a tree that bisects the image in half vertically, with the tree appearing to extend beyond the top and bottom of the painting. A deer skull hangs from the front of the tree, with large antlers that curve to the sides and forward, placing these objects in the foreground of the pictorial plane. Almost all of the background is blue sky, with a mountain range and mesa placed horizontally in the lowest eighth of the picture, pushing the mountains into the distance. The middle-ground is a horizontal band of green and tan, at the very bottom of the image. The extremely low placement of background and middle-ground creates a sense of great spatial distance. The painting has an asymmetrical balance, with skull and branches at the top countered by the mountains at the bottom. Although bisected vertically by the tree, features vary slightly on right and left.
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The mesa, Pedernal rises from the flat valley floor in a roughly triangular shape, and horizontal bands of color represent distant ranges. Angled bands of green and horizontal bands of tan provide texture and form on the mesa and lead the eye across and up the mountain. The curving tree, with linear bands of color rises from bottom to top, bisected by the deer

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