The Paper Garden: An Artist Begins Her Life’s Work at 72


Molly Peacock’s The Paper Garden is a wonderful delving into the life of an unusual 18th century artist, Mary Delany.  She made over 1000 beautiful botanical collages which use nothing but paper and a few found bits to recreate flowers and other plant-life in astonishing detail. What speaks to us about Delany, however, is not just the richness of her work but the sadness and triumph in the story behind her art.

Mary Delany was seventy-two years old when she noticed a petal drop from a geranium. In a flash of inspiration, she picked up her scissors and cut out a paper replica of the petal, inventing the art of collage. It was the summer of 1772, in England. During the next ten years she completed nearly a thousand cut-paper botanicals (which she called mosaicks) so accurate that botanists still refer to them. Poet-biographer Molly Peacock uses close-ups of these brilliant collages in The Paper Garden to track the extraordinary life of Delany, friend of Swift, Handel, Hogarth, and even Queen Charlotte and King George III.

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