Monday, May 2, 2011
The Paper Garden: An Artist Begins Her Life's Work at 72 by Molly Peacock (TLC Tours Review and Giveaway)
Published April 2011
Hardcover, 397 pages
Reviewed by Sandra
How can I begin to capture the wonder and admiration I felt on delving into this book! To begin with, how does a 72-year-old-woman have the energy and the manual dexterity to cut, shape and assemble 985 exquisite life-like paper flowers over a period of 10 years?
Mary Granville Pendarves Delany began her creation of cut-paper botanicals at the age of 72, in 1772, and finished the last one in her 83rd year. At the age of 77 she was cutting out her “mosaicks”, as she called them, at the rate of one per day! These flowers were all done on deep black backgrounds. She drenched the front of white paper with black watercolor, then pasted onto these backgrounds hundreds of the tiniest dots, squiggles, scoops, moons, slivers, islands, and loops of brightly colored paper, slowly building up a replica of a flower. For example, one flower, a rose, is composed of at least 71 minute pieces of paper, including 23 paper thorns. “I have invented a new way of imitating flowers,” she wrote to her niece. As her artistic reputation grew, exotic plants from around the globe arrived in profusion for her to copy.
The author refers to one of the tools used to create these paper flowers as “a pair of filigree-handled scissors – the kind that must have had a nose so sharp and delicate that you could almost imagine it picking up a scent.” Mrs. D also used tweezers (who knew they were available then?), a bodkin (an embroidery tool for making holes), brushes of various kinds, pieces of glass or board to fix her papers, pins to hang her papers to dry….a very labor-intensive job, for it was more than a hobby.
On nearly every flower Mrs. D wrote the Latin name, the vernacular name, the place and date the work was done. They were mounted into 10 leather volumes which were donated to the British Museum in 1895 by a relative of the artist. Today they are housed in the Print and Drawings Study Room of the Museum and can be viewed by making an appointment to see them. I checked the website of the British Museum and simply typed in “Mary Delany’s paper flowers” and was able to view them at leisure!
This is not a dry, documentary-style description of handiwork done in the 1700’s but rather a very poignant retelling of a woman’s life – a 68-year-old woman who had to overcome sadness and grief following the death of her beloved sister and husband. She began to rebuild her life bit by bit with the production of her beautiful flowers. The author gives us insight into Mrs. Delany’s feelings, viewpoints, and challenges throughout her life. We also glimpse into the day-to-day life of individuals, albeit aristocratic ones, in the 1700’s.
If you appreciate flowers, art, craft, and/or handiwork of any sort, as well as history, then you will enjoy this book. At the very least, it is a wonderful testimony to the human spirit.
Buy The Paper Garden on Amazon.com:
The book's website: http://www.peacockpapergarden.com/
And now for the giveaway! I have one copy of this book to give away. Entering is easy.
1. Leave a comment telling me why you want to win this book. Please include your email.
2. Open to US and Canada.
3. Giveaway ends May 9, 2011.
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About the Author:
Disclosure: Thanks to TLC Tours and Bloomsbury for sending me this book for review. I was not compensated in any other way, nor told how to rate or review this product.