Highlights

Highlights

The De Morgan Collection is the most spectacular of its kind. Established by Wilhelmina Stirling who was an ardent collector of antiques, furniture and particularly of Victorian and Edwardian painting and decorative arts.

With 56 oil paintings and 600 drawings by radical femist artist Evelyn De Morgan, and designs, paintings and over 800 pieces of ceramic by her husband, William De Morgan, the collection is the single largest in the world representing a single artistic couple, making it the leading authority on the work of the De Morgans.

This is a selection of the best objects in the collection. Each has been chosen for its uniqueness, the demonstrable mastery of the craft by the artist or sheer scale and beauty of the work.

Painting Highlights

The Storm Spirits

In this painting the element of rain, thunder and lightning are personified as strong, beautiful female spirits, causing chaos and turbulence In the sea below them. To the left, dressed in yellow, is the spirit of Rain pouring grey water from a never-ending vial. To the right, Lightning - a red-win...

Night and Sleep

Night floats through the evening sky, his red robes reminiscent of the sunset, and his billowing cloak darkening the sky behind him. He floats arm in arm with Sleep, who gently scatters poppies onto the earth beneath, from the armful of flowers that he has taken from his girdle. (The Victorians used...

Flora

Flora is the Roman Goddess of flowers, especially associated with spring, her festivals, the Floralia, were from 28 April to 3 May. The scroll is in Italian and translates as follows: I come down from Florence and am Flora, This city takes its name from flower Among the flowers I was born and now...

The Dryad

In Greek mythology dryads are mythological tree nymphs and protectors of the oak tree. Evelyn appears to have depicted a hamadryade, which is a type of nymph who is bonded to the tree itself. In this painting we can see the little nymph emerging from the tree, with her foot still hidden inside the t...

Medusa

Relief face of Medusa modelled in Gesso and probably painted with oils on a panel board. Background of applied water gilding decorated with punched and sgraffito techniques. Similar in techniques to the painted panels at All Saints Church, Cawthorne…

The Soul’s Prison House

When a study for this work was exhibited in 1889, a quotation attributed to St. Augustine of Hippo was attached to it – “illuminate, oh illuminated my blind soul that sitteth in darkness and the Shadow of Death”. The Soul sits in its prison (the body) awaiting its release into the light beyond the p...

Drawings Highlights

Ceramics Highlights

Multi-Lustre Dodo Tile

6 inch earthenware tile decorated with a multi-lustre Dodo on an engobe ground. The dodo is an extinct flightless bird that was endemic to the island of Mauritius, in the Indian Ocean. The dodo was popularised in the Victorian period by Lewis Carol who featured the flightless bird in his work of fiction, Alice in Wonderland. This endearing animal is one of many charming designs produced by De Morgan which were perennially popular in the Victorian period. Typical application of these tiles would be in a nursery bathroom. De Morgan created multiple designs based on the same motif, by changing the background from plain, to decorative or by changing the colour. This particular tile is decorated with gold, copper and silver lustre highlights. These metals all have different melting temperature and have to be fired separately; accordingly this tile would have been fired 6 times and is very rare as it was challenging and expensive to produce. Whilst De Morgan often bought blank tiles from other tile manufactures to decorate, this particular one was made by De Morgan's own pottery. It is stamped on the reverse with the impress mark DM98 which dates the tile to De Morgan's pottery in Sands End in 1898. Sands End was an area of Fulham near Wandsworth Bridge.

Rose and Trellis Tile

This earthenware tile is decorated with two white roses in opposite corners which are entwined in green leaves. This bright white contrasts with the blue trellis and turquoise ground, creating an attractive design. Prior to opening his own pottery in 1872, De Morgan collaborated with William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones, creating ceramics and stained glass for the founders of the most iconic interior design firm of the Victorian period. Many of De Morgan’s ceramic designs, such as this Rose and Trellis Tile were inspired by Morris’s design idiom and were intended to complement Morris interiors. The impress stamp on the reverse of the tile informs us that this tile was made in 1898 when De Morgan was in partnership with three of his former employees. DM98 impressed mark (n) reverse

Livadia Jar

A large William De Morgan jar and cover by Fred Passenger, moulded in relief with bands of stylised scaly fish, the two handles modelled as winged grotesques each with twin scrolled fish tails, in ruby and copper lustre, the cover modelled with foliage. The pot has no date marks, however it is initialled "FP" for Fred Passenger. So called the Livadia Jar because of attributions in the Gaunt / Clayton Stamm book to two similar pots (now in the Cecil Higgins Collection, Bedford - impress mark L, 1888- 1897 (according to the Cecil Higgins Catalogue C1196 is dated specifically as 1894). The De Morgan Foundation’s jar is the larger and most elaborate of the three pieces (see images for C1196). In the caption to the illustration in GCS, Clayton Stamm states ‘These pots were made for the Tsar of Russia’s newly constructed white limestone summer palace on the Black Sea (designed 1894, completed 1911) but were never delivered’. This comment is quite circumstantial, although it is true that the original 1860s Livadia palace was entirely rebuilt in the early twentieth century, and completed in 1911. New furnishings would have been required , however, research suggests that planning for the new palace did not start until 1904, which puts the project outside the early Fulham period. What made Clayton Stamm and William Gaunt assert that the Cecil Higgins Jars were connected with the palace is unknown. However, the pots had been sold by Clayton Stamm to Charles Handley-Read (prior to being bought by the Cecil Higgins Museum) and it is entirely possible that Clayton Stamm invented the story (based on the fact that De Morgan had designed tile panels for the Livadia yacht) in order to inflate the value and importance of the pieces. Stylistically the three so called Livadia vases are unlike anything else made by De Morgan. The pots have a specifically Mannerist character (Florence was a stronghold of Mannerism in the sixteenth century). In the backward reclining figures of the pots’ handles one might see echoes of the figures on Michelangelo’s Medici tombs, or those on Cellini’s famous salt cellar, whose marine theme is shared by these pots – the handle figures for example are basically tritons, the mermen sons of Neptune in ancient myth. With its striking decoration of fish in relief the pot is the most intensely maritime of the three. If there is a connection with the seaside resort of Livadia (or indeed the yacht) then this would make sense. However, from 1892 onwards De Morgan began spending his winters in Florence (and also working with Italian craftsmen both in Florence and in London) and so the pots strong Italianate feel could equally be inspired by his extended stays on the Continent and by the 15th and 16th Century Italian maiolica work from centres such as Doruta, Gubbio, Faenza , collected by the South Kensington Museum. It is the opinion of Jon Catleugh that it is wrong to perpetuate the fiction that any of these three vases are in any way connected with the Livadia Palace.…

Scarlet Macaw and Blue Fronted Amazon Parrot tile panel

Framed tile panel consisting of a 8 x 3 section of polychrome tiles with scarlett macaws and blue fronted amazon parrots in a vine with grapes and leaves. Originally the tiles formed a large fire screen however it was damaged in the Bourlet's fire in 1991 and broken into 60 fragments. The panel was conserved and reassembled from broken tiles in 2012…

Dolphin Dish

Ruby lustre earthenware dish. Decorated with a fantastic dolphin facing left, against prickly leaves. Reverse with concentric rings of cream, red lust…

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