The two bones, a vertebrae and an unidentified other bone, stand out starkly in the foreground. The painting uses a variation of red hues, that merge into orange and yellow in places, the white of the bones immediately drawing the viewer's eye into the landscape. The size of the animal bones is the same as that of the hills, giving the painting an eerie quality where nothing is quite real, nothing is as it seems. O'Keeffe loved to travel to New Mexico even when she was working in other States, describing this area as the 'faraway', somewhere 'beautiful, untouched and lonely'.
Red Hills and Bones by Georgia O'Keeffe was painted shortly after the artist herself had bought her own ranch home in New Mexico, known as the Ghost Ranch, and this painting evokes a modern take on the sweeping American vista. In fact, Georgia O'Keeffe would later be remembered by history as the mother of this American style of modernism. Red Hills and Bones by Georgia O'Keeffe is one of the largest works by the artist, making this painting not just ambitious but also very effective when it comes to the final result too. O'Keeffe was constantly inspired by the countryside around her, but Red Hills and Bones was painting after a long, self-imposed break by the artist, who suffered with mental health problems after discovering her husband's affair. She began working again in 1938 at the request of a Philadelphia based advertising agency, who saw the popular appeal of her works.
Red Hills and Bones by Georgia O'Keeffe is one of many similar works inspired by the Ghost Ranch, often using deep, earthy colours and jarring juxtapositions of bones and landscape to create works that represent a new way of looking at the American South-West. O'Keeffe won many awards during her lifetime, including an honorary degree from Harvard. O'Keeffe's work has a masculine breadth and boldness, with O'Keeffe herself declining to be part of the feminist movement of artists, preferring to be seen as a great artist in her own right, rather than resign herself to simply being called a great female artist. Red Hills and Bones by Georgia O'Keeffe can currently be seen at the Philadelphia Museum of Art as part of the The Alfred Stieglitz Collection.