• Book Review: The Paper Garden (2010)

    Kimberly Glassman

    American-Canadian poet and essayist, Molly Peacock, layers her life over the incredible story of Mrs Mary Delany who, at the age of 72, blossomed as one of the most influential botanical multimedia artists, credited with inventing florals made out of mixed-media collage.

    Who doesn't love a good, old fashioned biography of a woman coming into her own later in life? Do you ever feel like you might have missed the boat with a goal you should have started pursuing earlier in life? Maybe you think you are too old to go for that job, degree, or opportunity.

    At the age of 72, after the death of her second husband, Mrs Delany picked up a pair of scissors and created a new art form out of thin air—one that took the botanical art world by storm—mixed-media collage.

    Despite her age, Delany produced close to 1,000 botanically correct cut-paper flowers, which are now housed at the British Museum.

    The book reads like a Jane Austen novel. It is a deeply personal account of the author's discovery of Delany's work which she relates back to her own life and work. Delany is revealed as a strong woman who was given the opportunity (as a widow) to work with recognised botanic gardens, to openly admire the work of Carl Linnaeus, and to become recognised by the Duchess of Portland, whose natural history collection was held in high regard during Delany’s lifetime. In this lovely book, Peacock brings Delany's multifaceted story to life, revealing it to be as layered and complex as her beautiful botanical collages.