Discover The Collection

The De Morgan Collection

On loan from the De Morgan Foundation, this exhibition showcases the stunning work of William and Evelyn De Morgan alongside the partnership of G F and Mary Watts.

Dragon and Carnation Tile Panel

Dragon and Carnation Tile Panel

Ceramic

View all

Dragon and Carnation Tile Panel

Artist

De Morgan and Company

Date

c.1872-1907

Materials/Technique

Tin glazed Earthenware

This tin glazed earthenware tile panel consists of two nine-inch tiles, surrounded by one-inch border tiles. The spectacular polychrome design depicts a blue-winged dragon with a curved tail, spiked tongue and sharp claws. The bright yellow background is ornamented with green leaves and purple carnations. The vivid and unusual purple glaze was created by the addition of the metal manganese to the glaze recipe.

While the bright yellow ground of this tile panel is not typical of Islamic design, carnations are a motif often found on the Turkish and Persian ceramics, by which De Morgan was so inspired. In Western symbolism purple carnations denote impulsiveness and unpredictability; characteristics which one could easily ascribe to the fierce looking dragon. In this way De Morgan often mixed Eastern and Western cultures and traditions in his designs.

The Worship of Mammon

The Worship of Mammon

Painting

View all

The Worship of Mammon

Artist

Evelyn De Morgan

Date

1909

Materials/Technique

Oil on Canvas

As a spiritualist Evelyn was obsessed with the opposing concepts of materialism and spiritual wellbeing and she returns to this theme in several of her paintings. The Worship of Mammon, was painted in 1909, some 15 years after G.F. Watts first tackled the subject in his painting Mammon: Dedicated to his Worshippers - the oil study for which is on display at the Watts Gallery.

In both paintings Mammon, the demon of covetousness, is shown ensconced in a throne, in an elevated position, whilst being idolised by his followers who reject spiritual wealth in favour of greed and the acquisition of worldly wealth. However, the motivations of the two artists are quite different.

Watts increasingly believed that society was being made rotten by the worship of wealth and riches and his painting is an indictment of the greed of Everyman. Evelyn's take on the subject matter was inspired by her religious principles, and in particular the passage from Matthew's Gospel “You cannot serve two masters...you cannot serve God and Mammon". To illustrate this, in De Morgan's representation, the young woman ignores the bag of gold held out by Mammon, but looks yearning into his face - she has moved from the love of gold, to the love of Mammon himself and so has cut herself off from the love of God, thus causing her own doom.

The Storm Spirits

The Storm Spirits

Painting

View all

The Storm Spirits

Artist

Evelyn De Morgan

Date

1900

Materials/Technique

Oil on Canvas

In this painting the elements 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-winged figure with winged feet hurls lightning bolts into the storm. At the top centre is the spirit of the Thunderclouds, dressed in dark blue with her dark wings and draperies merging into the clouds around her.

However, in the centre of the image away from the pandemonium of the foreground is a small oasis of sanctuary, which offers a sense of hope for a calmer future. The painting was executed in the middle of the Boer War and as such, it can be read as a symbolic depiction of the chaos of war and hope for a return to peace.

The Gilded Cage

The Gilded Cage

Painting

View all

The Gilded Cage

Artist

Evelyn De Morgan

Date

1900-1919

Materials/Technique

Oil on Canvas

An overriding theme in Evelyn's work was women's suffrage; this can best be illustrated by her iconic painting The Gilded Cage.

In the painting a young woman, dressed in sumptuous gold robes, looks wistfully at revellers outside. Jewels and a book lie discarded, on the floor by her feet. Her entrapment in a patriarchal society which dictated her confinement in the domestic sphere is echoed by the golden caged canary in the top right of the painting.

However, the morose look on the face of the older gentleman suggests that he too is not happy with this scenario. Perhaps he, in his turn, bemoans the folly of youth, which leads to the rejection of the knowledge and riches which he has to offer the young woman?

Ariadne in Naxos

Ariadne in Naxos

Painting

View all

Ariadne in Naxos

Artist

Evelyn De Morgan

Date

1877

Materials/Technique

Oil on Canvas

This is one of Evelyn's earliest paintings, executed shortly after she left the Slade School of Art. It was also the first that she exhibited at the influential Grosvenor Gallery, in London. Like many of Evelyn's early works, it is painted in a neo-classical style and is inspired by Greek mythology.

The painting depicts Ariadne (the daughter of the King of Minos) who was abandoned by her lover Theseus, whilst she slept on the island of Naxos. Awakening to her fate, Ariadne is often portrayed in a frenzied rage. In contrast, Evelyn depicts her after her rage has subsided, solitary and desolate, her red robe conveying the idea of martyrdom. The many shells on the shoreline symbolise female sexuality, fertility and love.

The painting is housed in a 'Watts Frame', so called after the artist who frequently used this style.

Galleon Tile Panel

Galleon Tile Panel

Ceramic

View all

Galleon Tile Panel

Artist

De Morgan and Company

Date

c. 1879-95

Materials/Technique

Tin glazed Earthenware

This stunning tile panel, depicting galleons in full sail with sea creatures, landscape and sunrise is an example of De Morgan's design and production at its best. The scale, subject and quality of this panel suggest that it may well have been designed as part of De Morgan's commissions for P&O, which he undertook between 1882 and 1900. Letters written between De Morgan and his business partner Halsey Ricardo further place the panel as part of their designs for the steam ship s.s.Malta in 1895.

To create this tile panel, glaze was painted onto large sheets of paper and then placed onto the tiles before firing. Look carefully and you can see where the sections of paper overlapped.

The tile panel was acquired by the De Morgan Foundation in 2006 with the generous assistance of the Heritage Lottery Fund and The Art Fund.

Peacock Tile Panel

Peacock Tile Panel

Ceramic

View all

Peacock Tile Panel

Artist

De Morgan and Company

Date

c.1872-1907

Materials/Technique

Tin glazed Earthenware

Symbolically Peacocks are imbued with several meanings. In pagan society they were a symbol of protection due to the 'all seeing eyes' on their feathers. In Islamic cultures they are a symbol of nobility or royalty, and in Christian iconography they are a symbol of holiness and protection. In all likelihood, De Morgan would have been aware of all these meanings and in addition to their potent symbolism he clearly enjoyed the design possibilities offered by the fabulous colours and glorious tails of these magnificent birds.

In this panel we see a peacock standing on a balustraded terrace. Stylistically the balustrade and paved ground connects this tile panel with many of the designs which De Morgan created for P&O and it is possible that this panel was also intended as part of a decorative scheme for one of the 12 ships which De Morgan was commissioned to produce work for.

Fish and Petal Rice Dish

Fish and Petal Rice Dish

Ceramic

View all

Fish and Petal Rice Dish

Artist

De Morgan and Company

Date

c.1872-1907

Materials/Technique

Tin glazed Earthenware

This unusually shaped dish with a boss in the centre is known as a rice dish. The fish, waves, petal and leaf motifs and the colours are all inspired by the ceramics of the Middle East. The reverse is decorated with concentric bands of blue, white and turquoise and it is marked 'W DE MORGAN' and the decorator's mark 'C.P'.

Demonstrating the inconsistency of De Morgan's ceramics, this piece is not marked with the pottery location or the date on which it was fired.

The piece was decorated by Charles Passenger.

Dodo Tile

Dodo Tile

Ceramic

View all

Dodo Tile

Artist

De Morgan and Company

Date

1898

Materials/Technique

Lustre Earthenware

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 Carroll who featured the bird in his work of fiction, Alice in Wonderland.

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 temperatures 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.

This particular tile has the 'DM98' impress mark on the reverse, dating the production to 1898.

Portrait of William De Morgan

Portrait of William De Morgan

Painting

View all

Portrait of William De Morgan

Artist

Evelyn De Morgan

Date

1893

Materials/Technique

Oil on Canvas

This is the earlier of two portraits of William De Morgan, painted by his wife Evelyn. According to the signature at the top right of the work it was painted in Florence, in 1893.

In the painting, William is depicted in his blue artist robes against a tiled wall. He stares solemnly at the viewer. It is a formal portrait and shows little of his personality, particularly the humour and charm with which he imbued much of his own work.

The painting's frame is also of note as it is a nineteenth-century adjustable frame.