“The Paper Garden: An Artist Begins Her Life’s Work at 72”

A book group especially for art enthusiasts.

May 18, 2023 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm At the Museum and virtually on Zoom

"The Paper Garden: An Artist Begins Her Life’s Work at 72" by Molly Peacock

Welcome to Museum Reads, the Newport Art Museum’s Art-Themed book group for adults. We meet monthly, at the Museum and virtually, for discussion, and frequently are joined by the author.

A beautifully written tour de force from an internationally acclaimed poet, The Paper Garden is at once a biography of an extraordinary eighteenth-century woman and a fascinating meditation on late-life creativity.

Mary Granville Pendarves Delany (1700-1788) was the witty, beautiful, and talented daughter of a minor branch of a powerful family. Married off at seventeen to a sixty-one-year-old drunken squire to improve the family fortunes, then widowed by twenty-five, she would spurn many suitors over the next twenty years, including the charismatic Lord Baltimore, but she also refused to retire to a quiet, pensioned existence. She cultivated a wide circle of friends, including Handel and Jonathan Swift. And she painted, she stitched, she observed, as she swirled in the outskirts of the Georgian court. In mid-life, she finally found love, and married again.

Upon her second husband’s death twenty-three years later, she arose from her grief, picked up a pair of scissors and, at the age of seventy-two, created a new art form, mixed-media collage. Over the next decade, Mrs. Delany created an astonishing 985 botanically correct, breathtaking cut-paper flowers, now housed in the British Museum and referred to as the Flora Delanica. Delicately, Molly Peacock has woven parallels in her own life around the story of Mrs. Delany’s and, in doing so, has made this biography into a profound and beautiful examination of the nature of creativity and art. Gorgeously designed and featuring thirty-five full-colour illustrations, this is a sumptuous and lively book full of fashion and friendships, gossip and politics, letters and love. It’s to be devoured as voraciously as one of the court dinners it describes.

Museum Reads Notes:
Be sure to register to receive email updates and Zoom links.
For last minute registrations, please call the front desk for the Zoom link at 401-848-8200.

Don’t miss!
The Opening Reception for Special Exhibition Ana Flores: Shaman Ladders and Other Stories, on view through October 28, 2023

About the Author

Molly Peacock. As a poet, I’m gratified by the many people who follow my work, especially The Analyst: Poems (and seven other volumes). As a biographer, I’m in awe of two incredible women, visual artists of the past who held the keys to how we love and work today. My newest, Flower Diary: Mary Hiester Reid Paints, Travels, Marries & Opens a Door, comes out in Fall, 2021. It’s a companion to The Paper Garden: Mrs. Delany Begins Her Life’s Work at 72.

I’m also an arts activist. With a friend I started what became a cultural institution in New York City: Poetry in Motion on the subways and buses. Now I’m just beginning a project called The Secret Poetry Room. I’m a dual citizen with family roots in both New York and Canada. When I settled down in Toronto, I inaugurated The Best Canadian Poetry series. In my memoir Paradise, Piece by Piece I describe how I chose not to have children, and the book inspired the title of the Trixie Films documentary, My So-Called Selfish Life. I’ve been Poet-in-Residence at The American Poets’ Corner, the Elliston Poetry Room, Bucknell University, University of California-Riverside, Western University, Canada, and a member of the Graduate Faculty at the Spalding University Brief Residency MFA Program. Yearly I teach at the Unterberg Poetry Center at New York City’s 92Y.  But the mainstay of my teaching has been independent. Using the model of Nadia Boulanger in Paris, I’ve mentored emerging writers, teaching poetry and nonfiction one-to-one to many talented individuals who have gone on to publish many books. Now, in the pandemic, I’ve started cartooning.

This program is made possible by your support of the Annual Fund.