From The Archives: Evelyn De Morgan, Water Pilferer

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.


                                                                 (Click to enlarge)

This photograph of Evelyn De Morgan was taken around 1865, when she was around ten years old. Her necklace, dress and glossy ringlets reflect her upper-class upbringing. Even at such a young age, Evelyn was exhibiting an interest in art. Her younger sister Wilhemina Stirling (though merely a baby when this photograph was taken) recalls Evelyn’s artistic leanings in her biography William De Morgan and His Wife. She tells of a time when the children of the household were banned from having water after repeated pranks of sprinkling water on passers-by from their window. However, this wouldn’t prevent Evelyn from pursuing her painting hobby:

 Evelyn[...], who had found the amusement congenial, was determined not to be thwarted in this manner. She therefore 

provided herself a doll’s tea-pot, and when she went out for a walk with the nurses she lagged behind and hurriedly stole water from the gutters or puddles with which, in secret, she contrived to pursue her amusement unsuspected.

Wilhemina was not especially overwhelmed by her sister’s early artistic endeavours, going on to say:

A few of these early attempts at Art have survived – some flowers cleverly drawn and some spirited figures in vivid garments; but these are not more remarkable than similar attempts by other girls of her age.

It's fair to say that Wilhemina's admiration for her sister's work greatly increased through the years, as her tireless efforts to build a substantial collection of her paintings proves.

Evelyn, circa 1900

Emma Coleman, Museum Officer