Lilies

Description
The Reverend William Keble Martin spent many years of his life collecting, studying and drawing plants. This drawing of plants in the lily family is a preliminary plate for inclusion in his book The Concise British Flora in Colour published in 1965. It corresponds to plates 85 and 86 in the final work.

In spring 1934 his vocation took him to the Vicarage of Great Torrington. Visiting parishioners, preparing sermons and Bible classes in this new parish left little time for drawing. Spare time was spent in the garden. Keble Martin drew the meadow saffron flower (Colchicum autumnale) from a specimen found in Torrington (bottom right).

The following species are depicted: Muscari atlanticum, Scilla autumnalis, Scilla verna, Endymion non-scriptus, Fritillaria meleagris Gagea lutea, Lloydia serotina, Paris quadrifolia, Narthecium ossifragum and Colchicum autumnale. RAMM also has his herbarium collection (pressed plants).

Purchased with assistance from the Friends of RAMM.
Accession Loan No.
99/2015/4
Collection Class
Drawings
Medium
watercolour, ink and pencil on paper
Common Name
lilies
Simple Name
drawing
Full Name
untitled: Liliaceae: lilies
Production Person Surname
Martin
Production Person Initials
William Keble
Production Year Low
c1900
Production Year High
1965
Family Group

Inscription / Transcription
89-90-91; SCILLA AUTUMNALIS: SCILLA AUTUMNALIS X6; Muscari: Ornithogalum

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    • Have you seen William Keble Martin’s illustration of flowers in the lily family? The Reverend spent much of his life studying plants and capturing their likeness in sketches and paintings. In 1934, his work took him to the vicarage of Great Torrington, where he devoted his energy to visiting parishioners and preparing sermons. However, his free time was spent in the garden and nature, studying botany from real life. For example, Martin drew the meadow saffron flower or Colchicum Autumnale seen in the bottom-right corner of the illustration from life, basing it on a specimen found in Torrington. This illustration of flowers in the lily family was a preliminary plate to be included in his book The Concise British Flora in Colour, which was then published in 1965.

      Historically, lilies also hold significant meaning within the LGBTQ+ community. For example, the floral paintings of artist Georgia O’Keeffe have widely been thought to have a dual meaning. In particular, her delicate paintings of calla lilies have been viewed by some art critics as an intimate depiction of the female genitalia, so have been repurposed into an erotic lesbian symbol. During the 1970s, a new wave of feminists began to celebrate O’Keeffe’s portrayal of nature, the body, and themes of gender, despite her neither encouraging nor discouraging such interpretations of her work.

      By 1999, artist and activist Michael Page suggested that the trillium flower be used as a symbol of bisexuality. The flower is significant as a member of the lily family, as well as for first causing scientists to use the word ‘bisexual’, albeit in reference to them having both male and female sex organs, rather than in reference to sexual orientation. Page wanted to create a prominent symbol for the bisexual community, much like how the rainbow gay pride flag had become emblematic of the gay community after its creation by Gilbert Baker. As a result, the bisexual pride flag consisted of a pink and blue stripe, with the former representing homosexuality and the latter representing heterosexuality, with both overlapping in the middle to form a purple stripe that symbolised both sexualities becoming one. This flag design emblazoned with a trillium grew to be widely accepted across Mexico by 2001, intertwining themes of nature with bisexuality.

      What is your favourite LGBTQ+ flag design?

      To read more blog posts from our Out and About: Queering the Museum project, please visit the project website http://outandabout.exeter.ac.uk/2020/10/29/queer-objects-william-keble-martin-lily-illustration/

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