Tuesday, 6 August 2019
The Paper Garden by Molly Peacock
Subtitled Mrs Delany begins her life's work at 72, this is the biography of Mary Delaney who lived a very creative life but only discovered her true calling at 72 by effectively inventing collage as an art form.
I first came across Mary Delaney's collages at the excellent Cut and Paste exhibition (showing at the Scottish Gallery of Modern Art until 27 October (you can read my review of the exhibition here).
I was therefore delighted to find this book soon afterwards. It is in part a biography of Mary Delaney, following her early unhappy marriage, her life as a well connected, creative woman, a feminist really well before that term was even thought of and her late, happy marriage and her blooming into her art form. The book is illustrated with several of Delaney's collages, which are truly beautiful, exquisitely observed portraits of flowers made from cut out paper and sometimes incorporating parts of the actual plant.
I found it annoying though how much Molly Peacock wrote about herself in this book, sure, fair enough to detail the research involved in finding out about Mr Delaney but the sections about Peacock's own life detracted from the concept of biography. I also thought she imposed too much of her own interpretations into the presentation of the collages, with far too much use of metaphor to try to relate each picture to some aspect of Mary Delaney's life.
However overall I am glad I read the book, Mrs Delaney was a fascinating woman and it's great to read about someone who so successfully reinvented herself at such an advanced age! And the collages are amazing.
You can see a selection of Mrs Delaney's collages on the British Museum website.
The Paper Garden by Molly Peacock published by Bloomsbury.