The Calla Lily As A Symbol Of Femininity And Feminism Essay

The Calla Lily As A Symbol Of Femininity And Feminism Essay

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During the Art Deco era the calla lily became one of the most popular flowers around. Whether in florist shops or on artist canvases the calla lily became a recurring theme. Like many flowers before it the calla lily came to be more than a flower on its own but it represented the idea of femininity. The calla lily was used by artists such as Tamara de Lempicka, Diego Rivera and Georgia O’Keeffe as a symbol of femininity and feminism. Through examining their works, in relation to their own lives and the events of the day, I will explore how the calla lily came to represent a new type on femininity and feminism.
To begin with the calla lily itself. The calla or arum lily, as it is also commonly known, belongs to neither the calla, arum, nor lily families of species. The zantedeschia aethiopica, originates from Africa and belongs to a relatively small family of flowers. The calla lily does not appear significantly in earlier western works due to the conditions required to grow the calla lily not being possible in Europe. When the calla lily began to dominate the floral world beginning around the 1920s it did not go unnoticed as “it is difficult to overestimate the excellence of combination” of the calla lily in a bouquet remarked Janet Mabie in The Christian Science Monitor from 1928. The new interest in the flower opened it up to new interpretations, in an era that was fighting for women 's rights and when women artist were starting to make a huge splash in the art world the calla lily came to be synonymous with these feminine themes.
Flowers as symbolism have existed for centuries, some with overt and specific meanings, others more general. During the 17th century, Dutch artists painted numerous still lives of flower bouque...


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..., who was educated and passionate about art, continuing to collect and improve the collection long after her husband’s death. Her wealth gave her an independence that was not obtained by many women. She was less bound to the social conventions and chose not to suffer under the societal norms of her era because she was a woman. Her patronage of art continued as her own legacy after her husband’s death.
In the first few decades of the 20th century the calla lily stepped out into the art world and captivated artists and consumers alike. Its simple beauty and relative lack of overt definition lent itself to embrace the issues of the day and to become an emblem for artists to use in their works. Through artists like Georgia O’Keeffe, Tamara de Lempicka and Diego Rivera the calla lily came to be a feminist symbol in the numerous works the artists dedicated to the flower.

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