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In Summer Days, Georgia O’Keeffe suspended an animal skull and several Southwestern flowers above a barren desert landscape. The large scale of the bones and blossoms and their placement in the sky give the painting a surreal quality. For O’Keeffe, the animal skull and vibrant flowers were symbols of the cycles of life and death that shape the natural world. This composition belongs to a group of paintings in which the artist depicted the sun-bleached bones she brought back east from her summer sojourns in New Mexico. The deer, horse, mule, and steer skulls she collected, as one would gather wildflowers, became potent souvenirs of a landscape that had deeply inspired her. As she explained, “The bones cut sharply to the center of something that is keenly alive in the desert.”
Maxwell L. Anderson. American Visionaries: Selections from the Whitney Museum of American Art. (New York: Whitney Museum of American Art, 2001), 228.