Dodos and Dragons

Fantastical beasts are not so hard to find when you leap into the wonderful world of William De Morgan. Sail away on a medieval galleon to discover an art collection that you, your family and friends can treasure forever.

William used his playful ceramic designs to bridge the gap between real and imaginary worlds. The squat dodo bird was registered as extinct in the 17th century and so William never would have seen a live one. He used his brilliant imagination to create dodo designs on his tiles which are cheerful and full of character.

Did you know…?

William was good friends with Lewis Carroll who wrote Alice in Wonderland.

Whilst Lewis Carroll (Reverend Charles Dodgson) was a Don at Oxford University, William sent him a set of red-lustre tiles to decorate his fireplace. The fantastical beasts and make-believe medieval galleons on his tiles were inspired by Lewis Carroll’s nonsense poem ‘Jabberwocky’ and Alice’s wonderful Wonderland.

Every good myth, legend and story has dragons. These fire-breathing creatures have inspired writers from ancient times to the present day where they are key characters in Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones.

William De Morgan loved these mythical beasts and he made many dragon designs for his ceramics, looking to many different sources of inspiration. The dragon in Chinese culture is a symbol of power and strength and William’s Chinese-style dragon certainly asserts its authority over this plate.

Did you know…?

Before William De Morgan became a ceramic artist, he worked on furniture design.

His dragon cabinet is a very rare example of his life before tiles. He chose the legend of St George and the Dragon to decorate the front of the cabinet. William had a great sense of humour and so has depicted the end of this story, when St George has defeated the dragon and freed the Princess. Look at the poor beast, feeling sorry for himself, on a lead being taken to the king for a good telling off!

Have a closer look…

at this cabinet. If you view it from the side, you can see that the piece of furniture itself is shaped like a dragon.

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