My Experience at the De Morgan Centre

In the summer of 2013, we welcomed John Swarbrooke, a recent graduate of Courtauld Institute of Art, to assist us in curating our Men In Pants exhibition. Here's a short piece he wrote about his experience at the De Morgan Centre, illustrated by a number of Evelyn's drawings from our collection. 


In the summer of 2013 I was fortunate enough to spend some time at the De Morgan Centre assisting with an exhibition of Evelyn's drawings of the male body. I have always been an avid admirer of Evelyn's paintings but knew very little about the artist's work on paper before the project. And what an education it was!



 With the wonderful guidance of Claire and Emma I explored the Centre's archive of drawings,    learning about the artist's training in life drawing at the Slade School of Fine Art. Searching through  Evelyn's sketchbooks and the studies from her time at the Slade, I began to piece together an idea  of the young student developing her style and technical skill and achieving many awards for her  draughtsmanship along the way. A central part of the Slade School's curriculum, life drawing was  offered to both male and female students, making the School a more equal environment than the  traditional centre of art training in London – the Royal Academy. Almost equal, that is, as female  students were only allowed to draw partially draped male models – in other words, men in pants! 




Life drawing would go on to shape Evelyn's creative process, and the Centre holds a large collection of preparatory studies for many of the paintings that are found in the main gallery. Not only do these drawings reveal the stages involved in Evelyn's work on a painting – in particular the process of drawing the model and then adding the drapery in another drawing – they also raise the question of the artist's engagement with her models. By drawing on the insightful research of Scott Thomas Buckle, I examined the presence in Evelyn's art of Alessandro di Marco – an Italian model working in London in the latter half of the nineteenth century. Playing the art historical detective, I found the appearance of Alessandro in a few of Evelyn's works, examining the way in which the artist responds to the model's distinctive features and achieves her own creative vision of her subject. 




 My first experience of curating, it was exciting, if a little daunting, to begin with a blank space and  plan the layout of the exhibition. One of the highlights of the project was helping to write the  exhibition panels and descriptive texts, which allowed me to explore the themes of the exhibition  and think about the different stages in Evelyn's career as an artist. Many thanks to Claire and  Emma for giving me the opportunity to work on such an exciting and rewarding project!




We're extremely grateful to John for his hard work on this project. If you'd like to find out more about our Men in Pants exhibition, take a look at our exhibition page.