Women have been a potent symbol of nature since ancient times; in early cultures, ‘Mother Earth’ represented fertility and growth, the giver and nurturer of all life. Yet many also believed there was a dark, supernatural force that women held inside, linking them with the all-powerful, mysterious cycles and forces of the earth. Artists have been fascinated by this subject for centuries; during the Renaissance artists such as Sandro Botticelli set sensuously flowing women’s bodies amidst blooming forests and aqua blue sea, while the Romanticists and Pre Raphaelites of the late 19th century placed women in moody, brooding wilderness to emphasise their enigmatic and all-powerful beauty. Both Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse merged the flowing sensuality of feminine forms with the patterns and movement of nature, while in recent times, artists continue to explore how the notion of femininity and nature are still closely intertwined. Here at Illus Prints, many artworks explore the natural symbiosis between women and nature in a variety of guises – let’s take a look at some of the fascinating stories they have to tell.
Venus, Illus Prints
The Romanticist idea that women can harness and control the mysterious and indominable powers of nature informs the print Venus, where plant life sprouts forth from a women’s mouth and reaches upwards towards the sky. A blushing pink flower echoes the curved form of the woman’s lips, emphasising her blooming and blossoming young femininity. The same notion of feminine power is suggested in the print series Sun, Moon and Stars, as effeminate hands reach out as if shaping the very celestial forces that define our universe, with a distinctly light, careful touch. It was once thought the cycles followed by women’s bodies was linked to solar and lunar activity, with both co-existing in harmony with one another.
Sun, Moon and Stars, Illus Prints
The linear sensuality and feminine energy pioneered by Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso also inform many of our images at Illus Prints. In the triptych series Botanical Body Set, flowing, curvaceous lines sweep across bodily contours before naturally blossoming into organic, botanical plant and flower forms. Wallflower follows this same language of free-flowing femininity as a woman’s hand sweeps upwards into her delicate jawline before bursting forth as a riot of joyous flowers overhead that obscure her face. Tinted patches of colour dance around the lines, emphasising lively qualities of growth and movement caught up in her innately feminine spirit.
Wallflower, Illus Prints
A celebration of feminine fertility is another popular trope at Illus Prints, one that alludes not just to the notion of child-birth or motherhood, but as a reference to the wider creativity, inventiveness and sensuality of feminine energy. In Roots, the curved, flowing contours of a woman’s crossed legs zig-zag across the lower image, leading us towards a wild and untameable tangle of lush, fervent plant life. The ‘roots’ of the plant emerge as if stemming from her womb, as she springs forth a fountain of fantastical new life.
Roots, Illus Prints
In a similar vein, the print Poppies also illustrates a young woman with huge, oversized flowers emerging from between her legs, curling outwards from her small body with a free and uncontrollable energy. Here the wide-open poppies she seems to birth from within suggest the flowering sensuality of adult womanhood, as she tilts her head back and becomes lost in a private moment of wonder and self-discovery.
This amazing article written by Rosie Lesso.