From The Archives: Artistic talent runs in the family

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. 

                            Click to enlarge

The notation reads ‘Alice’s drawing[…] A woman feeding a flock of birds with bread crumbs’. The deftness with which Alice has depicted the scattered breadcrumbs brings a strong sense of movement to the piece.

The nursery journal shows that young Alice had a boisterous personality, quite in contrast to docile toddler William. The following excerpt is taken from Wilhemina Stirling’s biography William De Morgan and His Wife:

            "Willy’s [William’s] superior good temper[…] was a source of pathetic envy to his restless, vivacious little sister.

                        Alice:                ‘Mama, I wish I was not so contrairy.’

                        M[other]:           ‘Well, love, you will teach yourself in time not to be so.’

                        Alice:                ‘Willy is good always.’

                        M:                    ‘Not always – but on the whole he is a dear good little boy.’ "


In later years, William was described by Simeon Solomon as an "entirely uncommonplace young man; tall, thin, high forehead, aquiline nose and high squeaky voice" - perhaps this was what earned William the nickname 'Mouse', but it could just as well have been the quiet, gentle demeanour that he exhibited as a young lad.

Emma Coleman, Museum Officer