Mary Delany

Portrait of Mary Delany, by John Opie, 1782.

Mary Delany (14 May 1700–15 April 1788); English Bluestocking, artist, and letter-writer; equally famous for her "paper-mosaics" and her lively correspondence.

In 1771, Mary began to create cut out paper artworks (decoupage) as was the fashion for ladies of the court. Her works were exceptionally detailed and botanically accurate depictions of plants. She used tissue paper and hand coloration to produce these pieces. She created 1,700 of these works, calling them her "Paper Mosaics", from the age of 71 to 88 when her eyesight failed her. During this time, Mary made nearly 1,000 of the paper flowers.

..."For these 'mosaicks' are colored paper representing not only conspicuous details but also contrasting colors or shades of the same color so that every effect of light is caught". She struck up a friendship with Letitia Bushe, a watercolorist and miniaturist, with whom she embarked on a number of artistic projects.

..."With the plant specimen set before her she cut minute particles of colored paper to represent the petals, stamens, calyx, leaves, veins, stalk and other parts of the plant, and, using lighter and darker paper to form the shading, she stuck them on a black background. By placing one piece of paper upon another she sometimes built up several layers and in a complete picture there might be hundreds of pieces to form one plant. It is thought she first dissected each plant so that she might examine it carefully for accurate portrayal..."

..."The Paper Garden: an Artist Begins Her Life's Work at 72 by Molly Peacock, a biography of the woman who invented the art of paper collage -- rather accidentally, it seems, by noticing the similarity of a piece of colored paper and the petal of a geranium. Interesting to think that of such trivial coincidences are art forms born.
change photo
remove photo

First Collected by

Suzan Hamer


Contributors 1

Related Artists

+ add artist