Cut paper can be considered an art form, a folk art, or a craft. It often goes by the German “scherenschnitte”, meaning scissor cutting. Although it had ancient origins it became popular during the second half of the eighteenth century mostly in the form of portraiture called silhouettes, after Etienne de Silhouette (1709-1767). The silhouette of a subject, usually seated and in profile, was cut, freehand and quickly, by the artist. These miniatures were often framed and served as substitutes for painted portraits which were much more expensive. The silhouette on the left is of Sarah “Sally” Wister of Philadelphia. (See post here.) Paper cutting was also used to create decorative designs that were sometimes commemorative or religious in nature, often botanical, or as paper imitations of lace. The paper doily we use today harkens back to paper cutting of an earlier time. In its simplest form, a design is made by cutting folded paper with scissors to create a symmetrical pattern. Children are sometimes introduced to paper cutting in art class when they can use scissors safely; they usually make snowflakes.
I have brought up this subject because I have come across a cut-paper design made by Sarah Winslow Deming (see previous post). Seeing it helps to appreciate Sarah as a real woman who spent hours creating an intricate illustration of life as she knew it, including places and people.
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