Mary Delany

Mary Granville Pendarves Delany

(May 14, 1700-April 15, 1788)

Portrait of Mary Delany by John Opie, 1782.
Mary Delany, born in England, practiced the traditional crafts of her time, such as needlework and silhouettes. It wasn’t until the age of 72, four years after the death of her second husband, that she tried a new technique that was the beginning of collage as we know it today. Delany called it a ‘flower mosaick’, and went on to produce close to a thousand of them, which can be seen at The British Museum.
Pancratium Maritinum (Hexandria Monogynia), formerly in an album (Vol.VII, 45); Sea Daffodil. 1778 Collage of coloured papers, with bodycolour and watercolour, on black ink background

Gloriosa Superba (Hexandria Monogynia), formerly in an album (Vol.IV, 96) Collage of coloured papers, with bodycolour and watercolour, on black ink background

Delany made almost all her collages against a background of black, creating a striking effect quite different from most botanical drawings. She used layers of watercolor to create the background papers, as well as most of the paper used for the flowers. Delany meticulously layered small pieces to create shapes, shading and colors that are very realistic and still admired by botanists today.

Phlomis Leonorus (Didynam: Gymnos:), formerly in an album (Vol.VII, 62); Lion’s Tail. 1777 Collage of coloured papers, with bodycolour and watercolour, on black ink background

Not only is Delany’s work breathtakingly beautiful, I was also (as a 53 year-old art student) drawn to the fact that she started so late in life. Her attention to detail, the subtle shading and painstaking nature of her work all impress me greatly. Mary Delany created a body of work, as well as an art form that lives on today.

Peacock, Molly. (2011) The Paper Garden: An Artist [Begins Her Life’s Work] At 72. New York: Bloomsbury
Collection Online. [Internet]. The British Museum. Available from: http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/search.aspx?searchText=mary+delany [Accsessed 18 November, 2014).
Explore/Articles. [Internet]. The British Museum. Available from: http://www.britishmuseum.org/explore/highlights/articles/m/mary_delany_1700-88.aspx [Accessed 18 November, 2014]
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6 thoughts on “Mary Delany

  1. Reblogged this on Klumsy lima and commented:
    Collage is one of the mediums fairly new to me….well, I had mis-conceptions about what collage was before starting this course. (I just considered it to be torn up images glued on a page!) It’s something I have played with in project one and really enjoyed but thanks to Downward Dog Fibres, now I have something to really aspire to with collage. Mary Delany’s work is incredibly beautiful and I think something I have to make the effort to see in the flesh (so to speak).

    Like

  2. Pingback: Mary Delany | Klumsy lima

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