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LOVE AMONG THE BUTTERFLIES STUDY (ODE TO MARGARET FOUNTAINE)
Original 3D Paper Cut Collage Cyanotype. Cyanotype, handmade paper, Paper cut collage.
Handmade recycled cotton rag paper:
150gsm / 100% Cotton Rag / Recycled / Acid Free / Medium Rough
This artwork was inspired by Victorian lepidopterist Margaret Fountaine. Described as a natural-born
hunter: whether it was love, adventure or butterflies, her pursuit was relentless and her energy
legendary. She emerged from an unremarkable Victorian upbringing with an extraordinary drive to
self determination which defined her entire life.
Unconventional by nature, Fountaine was never cowed by society's strictures, or by what was
expected, this provided her with many exciting opportunities. The price of her freedom was high but
she never regretted her choices. A passionate lover and fearless individualist, her life was founded
on the idiosyncratic determination to pursue her own path irrespective of convention.
Born South Acre- Norwich 1862, Margaret Fountain's life-story is remarkable, as voracious collector
of butterflies as she was of beaux. An adventurous woman with zest and verve, she ranks highly
among the world's finest naturalists.
Margaret Fountaine's insatiable desire for travel took her to some of the loneliest and most beautiful
places in the world. In later life she endured considerable hardship and sorrow, yet her energy and
adventurous spirit rarely faltered. She was an outstanding woman by the standards of any age, and
her diaries are a fascinating record of a wild and fearless life lived.
Her world provided us with a magical glimpse into the splendours and idiosyncrasies of an era
before passports. Nurturing a growing interest in butterflies, she travelled all over the world- from
English cathedral towns to the borders of Tibet- butterfly net in hand. Wearing a crumpled man's shirt
with outsized pockets and a long skirt covered with the same, all filled with an assortment of glass
jars and small boxes, the lady was a mystery.
She intended to leave her mark on the world- The main body of Margaret's work was her superb
collection of 22,000 butterflies and exquisite painted artworks and sketches of chrysalids and
caterpillars were already publicly available at the Castle Museum and The Natural History Museum.
Her private diaries on the other hand were kept secret, sealed inside a box for a hundred years, they
were no ordinary documents. She decreed the 'Story Of My Life' must only be opened on April 15th
1978- They were opened two days late on the 17th (the appointed day was on a Saturday) at Norwich
Castle Museum. She was concerned that her colourful personal life might detract from a serious
consideration of her work, and she was right. For even when an edited version of her diaries were
published in the 1980's, it was her passionate love life that caught the imagination.
She was presented as an eccentric Victorian with an indiscriminate passion for men. Although the
readers of her journals have been captivated by her unorthodox private life, her importance as a
butterfly collector has rarely been acknowledged. One of the most remarkable aspects of Fountaine
is the degree to which her unconventional life has universal appeal to many women now. She was
amazing for the times she lived in and remains so to this day. Any woman travelling alone will relate
to the astonishing adventures Margaret survived, and any woman who has ever battled with the
conflicting demands of love and personal freedom, children and career will recognise the choices
she had to make.
Love Among The Butterflies Study (Ode To Margaret Fountaine) was created by constructing a
hand-cut collage using female photographic portraiture, a renaissance style wig made of layers of
hydrangea flowers and photographs of preserved butterfly specimens from my private collection.
My private collection of specimens were passed down to me from my grandparents and some gifted
from my mother, the rest I have collected when exhibiting in Paris from the Deyrolle- (oldest
taxidermy and natural history shop and museum in Europe).
Being able to use butterflies passed down through generations, pieces I fawned over, studied in
books and adored visiting collections in natural history museums around the world is a beautiful
tribute to my devotion to science and thankfulness my family fed my quest for knowledge and
passion for studying science.
I first learned about Margaret Fountaine on one of my many visits to the Butterfly House in
Williamson Park, Lancaster, the visitor guide started telling me a story about her studies, they
showed me books and gave details of where to see her specimens at The Natural History Museum
and her hometown of Norwich (Norwich Castle).
I photographed each specimen, used illustrations from my sketchbooks, some new and some from
my earlier years) as the base of creating her head of butterflies.
After coating the handmade paper with light-sensitive chemistry, they are left to dry in a dark room.
The large-scale negatives are contact printed onto the paper pieces by exposure to daylight (UV
rays). The prints are then processed by thoroughly washing in water to remove any unexposed
solution. They can then be hung to dry, developing to full density Prussian blue after 24 hours. Once
dried the individual butterflies are cut out and mounted onto the print to create a multi-layered,
3-dimensional paper cut artwork.
Signed by the Artist.
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