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This week we welcomed our painting conservator, Carol Willoughby. The De Morgan Foundation is undertaking conservation on eleven of Evelyn De Morgan's paintings, and the first step in that process is taking the canvases out of the frames. The paintings and the frames will go to separate specialist conservators. This has been an interesting week for staff and volunteers, as it is a chance to experience the paintings close-up, see them out of their frames and, in some cases, uncover exciting new discoveries!

This week (1st – 7th June) is Volunteers’ Week, an annual event celebrating the contribution made by millions of volunteers across the UK. As a small institution, we rely on our dedicated group of volunteers to keep the Foundation running smoothly. Our trusty helpers perform a wide range of tasks, and we’d like to take a little time today to highlight some important activities that couldn’t take place without their help.

 

Online Catalogue

Recently the British Museum put out a call for objects for a project called 'Teaching History in 100 Objects'. This project aims to support teaching of the new history curriculum by creating a set of free, high quality online resources based on museum objects. The British Museum will be showcasing many objects from museums across the UK in order to showcase the potential of local and regional collections in supporting students’ learning.

It has long been common knowledge that De Morgan was employed by P&O’s ships architect T.E.Colcutt to design schemes and provide tile decorations for the public rooms and circulation areas of twelve P&O liners. Initially supplying stock designs such as the Rose and Trellis, Double Carnation and BBB tiles which were installed in the smoking room of the s.s.Britannia, De Morgan soon progressed to designing elaborate schemes of arcades of trees, or imagined vistas from the ship’s voyage.

It is always exciting to examine paintings in order to discover the layers of paint and  the correlation between these layers and the changing intentions of the artist. Evelyn De Morgan's work however, is characterised by her efficiency in applying paint to the canvas and the resulting lack of alterations. Evelyn created many preparatory drawings for each painting, both compositional sketches and detailed studies of individual elements, and thus by the time she put paint to canvas she had a pretty good idea in her mind of how she wanted her completed work to look.

 

This post is part of our From The Archives blog series

William’s mother Sophia kept a detailed ‘Nursery Journal’ which depicts the early lives of her children. This page taken from the journal is proof positive that William wasn’t the only De Morgan with an artistic flair – the bold lines and confident execution in this sketch by his sister Alice show that she, too, was a budding young artist. 

 

This post is part of our From The Archives blog series

This letter from our archives is a perfect example of cross-writing, a practice that was common in the 19th Century. It involved writing a page of text, turning the page ninety degrees, and adding a second layer of text: 

 

This post is part of our From The Archives blog series

This rather unusual note comes, unsurprisingly, from an archive box labelled ‘Miscellaneous’. It is a handwritten cure for gout – we can’t recommend that you try this at home.

Click to enlarge

 

This post is part of our From The Archives blog series

We have only a handful of photographs of William De Morgan in our archive, and even less of Evelyn, and most of these taken in her later years. So this early photograph, found nestled in a family photo album, is a particular treasure.

 

This post is part of our From The Archives blog series

Our archive contains hundreds of letters and other correspondence, many of them detailing fairly humdrum everyday goings-on, some of them portraying Mrs Stirling's tireless efforts to obtain some of Evelyn's paintings, and occasionally we'll find a fascinating gem that will elicit a chuckle. This one from our archive definitely falls in the latter category.