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William and Evelyn De Morgan

6 November 2012 – 27 January 2013

“Two of the rarest spirits of the age.”
Sir Edward Poynter, President of the Royal Academy 

From glistening ceramics in vibrant Persian colours and metallic lustres by William De Morgan to the matt restraint of Evelyn De Morgan’s symbolic paintings, this exhibition celebrates the achievements of this extraordinarily creative partnership.

Like G.F. and Mary Watts, William and Evelyn De Morgan were a married couple, one an esteemed designer and potter, the other a celebrated artist. Both couples knew each other and William De Morgan advised Mary on the building of a kiln in Compton for the firing of the sculpted terracotta for the Watts Chapel. They shared together an Arts & Crafts ethos tied with a strong interest in spirituality.

William De Morgan (1839 – 1917) was one of the greatest ceramicists of his age and his brilliant lustre-ware pots and decorative tiles are known to many. His rediscovery of lustre was a significant technical contribution to the decorative arts of the nineteenth century. 

Similarly, Evelyn De Morgan (1855 – 1919) drew on art to create a new language for the expression of her spiritual views. Strong design executed with bold colours, her paintings owed much to the allegories and symbolic paintings of G.F. Watts, whom she admired. Watts felt a great sympathy for her work and wrote that “I look upon her as the first woman artist of the day — if not of all time”.

The Victorian age can boast of a number of famous cultural figures who were husband and wife and the Wattses were not alone in having a marriage which was also a creative partnership. Here, we celebrate the incredible output of G.F. and Mary Watts’s great friends in the Arts & Crafts Movement, William and Evelyn De Morgan.

We are grateful to The De Morgan Foundation, the principal lender to the exhibition. 

William and Evelyn De Morgan: Two of the Rarest Sprits of the Age
by Mark Bills

Evelyn and William De Morgan was one of the great creative partnerships of the Victorian art world. In our latest exhibition, we explore the art that emerged from this extraordinary relationship, exhibiting the resplendent pots and tiles of William counterpointed with the vivid colour and high seriousness of Evelyn’s painted allegories.

This article first appeared in Watts Magazine Issue 16 Winter 2012/13

Click here to read full article

1. Evelyn De Morgan, Ariadne in Naxos, 1881
2. William De Morgan, Bedford Park Daisy, 1872-1904
3. Evelyn De Morgan, The Sea Maidens, 1885-86
4. William De Morgan, Peacock Tile Panel, 1872-1907
5. Evelyn De Morgan, Evening Star over the Sea, 1900-1919
6. William De Morgan, Ferocious Lion Dish, 1888-1907