Paper Mosaicks: So intricate and detailed, it looks like a painting
June 21, 2011 3:11 PM   Subscribe

In 1772, at the age of 73, Mrs. Mary Delany invented a new way of depicting flowers: with hundreds of small pieces of paper carefully cut out and placed. This method - which she called "paper mosaicks" and which later became known as (paper) collage - enchanted her friend Lady Portland, King George III and his queen, and natural historians, artists, collectors, and friends alike. They look like botanical paintings, but are constructed out of paper. Browse the British Museum's collection.

Her artistic training with artists like Hogarth, her aristocratic background, widowhood, and interest in the natural world all informed this innovation. This is a (somewhat frustratingly formatted) narrative of her life during the seventeen years she created these pieces - or the briefer wikipedia entry may be more your speed.
posted by julen (21 comments total) 48 users marked this as a favorite
Omg, bliss. Jaw droppingly delicate, subtle and fine. amazing attention to detail. Cannot believe these are from the 1700's.

Marvelous find julen. Thanks so much for this treasure. I am savoring each image.
posted by nickyskye at 3:20 PM on June 21, 2011

Exquisite. This is why I get so pissed when Google posts yet another special homepage logo featuring some white guy. We know too much history to say, "Well, the reason there aren't more noteworthy women [or, for that matter, non-white types] to give logos to is that they didn't do anything noteworthy." Too much history even to say, "The reason is that women weren't allowed to do noteworthy things." They were, and they did; it's just a little harder to locate information about them because of centuries of cultural elision, which persists even in modern high-school history books. Why can't that be somebody's 20% project at Google HQ?

I hereby nominate Mary Delany for a Google logo.
posted by radicalawyer at 3:22 PM on June 21, 2011 [7 favorites]

Murakami is a white guy?
These are very beatiful and a great find.
posted by Ideefixe at 3:32 PM on June 21, 2011

Let it be known that Metafilter's own Ocherdraco helped edit and publish a brand new (and critically acclaimed) book on Delany, The Paper Garden.
posted by (The Rt Hon.) MP at 3:32 PM on June 21, 2011 [5 favorites]

SO cool about Ocherdraco's book!
posted by nickyskye at 3:41 PM on June 21, 2011

And inspiring about the artist beginning her life's work at 72.
posted by nickyskye at 3:42 PM on June 21, 2011 [3 favorites]

What an inspiration! Thanks for the post.
posted by Room 641-A at 4:00 PM on June 21, 2011

Where are the edges? I don't mean that in wonder and awe, I mean it literally: Where are the separate pieces of paper?
posted by DU at 4:34 PM on June 21, 2011

DU, each color is a separate piece of paper.
posted by oneirodynia at 4:41 PM on June 21, 2011

6 of ... 211!! Holy cow. I'm going to be here a while.

DU, I can't believe they're not inked as well as cut out.
posted by BlueHorse at 4:41 PM on June 21, 2011

They look like paintings! Amazingly nice.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 4:56 PM on June 21, 2011

Thanks, nickyskye!
posted by 3.2.3 at 5:25 PM on June 21, 2011

They are so beautiful. The carnations and the nasturtiums are just perfect.
posted by h00py at 5:47 PM on June 21, 2011

Paper is cool, but even more amazing are Harvard's famous glass flowers - 3D models of hundreds of flowers and plants, made in Germany by Leopold Blaschka and shipped to the US more than 100 years ago. More images and info: 1 2 3 and previously.
posted by beagle at 6:35 PM on June 21, 2011 [6 favorites]

Oh yeah, I was going to mention the glass flowers. I've seen them in person and they are *amazing*. Actually, the whole Harvard Natural History Museum is amazing. So old school.
posted by DU at 6:29 AM on June 22, 2011

From my slightly-obsessive reading about Mrs. Delany, it seems that in the first year or so, she was watercoloring some pieces until she realized she could just use even smaller pieces of paper (some of which she dyed).

When I searched Metafilter before posting, I somehow missed the info about Otherdraco's book - cool! I actually asked my local library to buy it yesterday.
posted by julen at 7:12 AM on June 22, 2011

Good timing, Julen! I am writing a dissertation about Anna Atkins and my supervisor has just suggested I look into Delany as another female innovator in botanical art. I'll track down a copy of Otherdraco's book!
posted by bibliophibianj at 1:05 PM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Paper Mosaicks: So intricate and detailed, it looks like a painting actual flowers glued to paper.

Wow, these are beautiful.
posted by audacity at 5:41 PM on June 26, 2011

Hey, MP, you could have told me there was a mefi thread about this! (Seeing as how you live with me and all... I keed, I keed)

Yes, I was the editor for the US edition of The Paper Garden. It's been out in Canada for months already, and will be out in the UK in July.

Here's a video of me discussing the book with the author.
posted by ocherdraco at 11:08 AM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

I should add that the book is fully illustrated in color throughout—the illustrations are gorgeous.
posted by ocherdraco at 11:15 AM on June 30, 2011

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