John Roddam Spencer Stanhope, the ‘painter of dreams’, is a central figure in our De Morgan Family. He was referred to as ‘poor Roddy’ by his family, the well-to-do nobility who lived at Cannon Hall, and didn’t understand his bohemian, artistic circle, and his ambition to paint, despite his mother having once trained with Gainsborough.
Roddam went on to encourage the next generation of artists in the family, his nieces Evelyn De Morgan and Gertrude Spencer Stanhope. Evelyn De Morgan trained at the Slade School of Art and went on to be a best-selling painter, whilst Gertrude excelled in bronze sculpture.
Without his support, the young women may have been discouraged from pursuing a career perceived as masculine and unladylike.
Gertrude Spencer Stanhope
Bronze sculptures of ‘Pan’ and ‘Orpheus’ by Gertrude Spencer Stanhope, in front of a portrait of a woman by Evelyn De Morgan
Evelyn De Morgan
Evelyn De Morgan in particular was very close to her uncle. Roddam moved to Florence, Italy in 1873, and De Morgan would often visit him, eventually moving to an apartment close by his in 1890 for six months of the year.
In 1894, De Morgan wrote from her apartment in Florence to her husband’s business partner, Halsey Ricardo. She thanks him for cigars he sent from London which will be a Christmas present for her uncle Roddam.
15 Longo il Mugnone
18 th Nov. 1984
Dear Mr Ricardo,
The cigars have arrived all safe and many thanks to you for all your trouble in the matter please tell me
what I owe you. I am glad you did not get Williams’ letters (asking you to stop them) in time. I did not
want them stopped as they will now be for a Xmas present for my uncle in fact I did not know he had
written to stop them, so all is exactly as it should be and I hope the excellence of the cigars will wipe
out all my errors in the past. We have summer here I never remember a more beautiful November in
Florence. The tile painters are hard at work, and judging by Iles letters the kilns seem to be behaving
themselves wondrously well. William craves the remainder of this sheet so I will only add that I trust
all goes well with Mrs Ricardo and the children please give them my love.
Evelyn De Morgan.
Another gift from De Morgan to her uncle, and one artist to another, was this portrait.
Roddam married Elizabeth King in 1859, who had a daughter, Marjorie. She lived in Surrey and is buried close by the De Morgans at Brookwood Cemetery in Woking, Surrey, again demonstrating the close family.
Marjorie inherited artwork and ceramics from her step-father and creative relatives, including the Roddam portrait by her cousin, Evelyn De Morgan. Marjorie’s family still live in the house she built in Surrey, with many beautiful De Morgan ceramics and Spencer Stanhope artworks. They have very kindly lent the portrait of Roddam, painted by his niece Evelyn, and treasured by his daughter’s family, to the aptly named exhibition, A Family of Artists, at Cannon Hall in Barnsley.
As this was once Roddam’s family’s home, it is a fitting and new temporary home for the painting and the De Morgan Foundation is very grateful to the family for lending it.