Painted in 1941, Calla Lillies is a work of still life and is typical of Tamara de Lempicka's art deco style. Lempicka was always striving to create work that was comprehensive and concise, later telling her only daughter Kizette that "I was the first woman to make clear paintings". Calla Lillies was painted at the end of the art deco era, shortly after the outbreak of World War II which saw Lempicka and her husband emigrate from Paris to America. Like many artists, Lempicka drew on her own personal life in her work. Although married with a daughter, she was still famous for her bisexual affairs which were considered quite the scandal during her lifetime and the narrative of choosing to paint a hermaphroditic flower such as lilies is perhaps a reflection of Lempicka's own sexuality.
The stems of the lilies are long and sensual, curving around one another to end with the opening of the sensuous mouth of the flower's petals. Beside the vase of flowers is an unopened gift, perhaps another insight into how Lempicka frequently saw herself, a woman keen to make her own fortune who was often distracted by desire and seduction. The inclusion of the square gift may also be a nod to Cubism, a style that Lempicka utilised softly in the background of many of her more modernist works, more concerned with creating depth and texture rather than a jarring, disjointed affect like another contemporary, Picasso.
As well as still life, Lempicka was known for he portraits, often using her daughter Kizette as her subject and many of her portraits focus on nudes. Lempicka enjoyed much success as an artist during the first half of the 20th century and again in the 1960s when a renewed interest in art deco style made her works once again incredibly desirable. Her popularity continued even after her death in 1980 and it is perhaps no surprise given the sensuality of her paintings that one of her most famous fans is Madonna, who featured her work in many of her tours and films, including one of the most iconic music videos of all time, Vogue.