The De Morgan Foundation owns an unparalleled collection of work by the late 19th and early 20th century ceramicist William De Morgan and his artist wife Evelyn. They were both highly esteemed in their fields and William De Morgan was the most famous potter of the Arts & Crafts Movement. The collection was originally formed by Evelyn’s sister, Mrs Wilhelmina Stirling. She was a fascinating woman who published her sister and brother-in-law’s biography and other books on diverse subjects. She inherited some pieces from her sister and brother-in-law and actively sought out other works to add to her collection which she assembled at her home, Old Battersea House in London.
Mrs Stirling died at the age of ninety nine in 1965. She bequeathed her substantial art collection to be looked after in Trust for perpetuity and the De Morgan Foundation Charity was formally created and charged with this duty in 1967.
The Foundation owns 56 framed oil paintings by Evelyn De Morgan. These range in scale from the domestic and intimate to extremely large imposing canvases. Evelyn De Morgan was also a prolific draughtswoman and the Foundation has a collection of over eight hundred drawings which vary from compositional sketches and life drawings to highly finished pastel studies for her oil paintings. The Foundation’s holdings also include a few watercolours and unframed works by Evelyn and some works on paper and canvas by William De Morgan. The Foundation also owns over 1000 pieces of ceramics, including individual tiles and tile panels, dishes, chargers, bowls and vases by William De Morgan. The collection includes examples painted by De Morgan’s top three decorators – Joe Juster, Charles and Fred Passenger and several pieces of De Morgan’s “moonlight” colour-way, which are exceedingly rare and are considered to be the pinnacle of De Morgan’s achievements in lustre.
In addition the Foundation possesses some archive material including a small collection of letters, drawings, plays, personal effects and family documents relating to William and Evelyn De Morgan. The vast majority of the archive however pertains to Mrs Stirling herself and includes acquisition details for the collection, her research for various books, photographs and ephemera dating from the 18th Century to 1965. The De Morgan Foundation’s own archive has also been preserved and this dates from 1967 to the present.
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