Curator Sarah Hardy to tell the story of Victorian couple’s ceramic art
A De Morgan fireplace in Emery Walker House
The series on monthly online, interactive talks offered by Emery Walker’s House continue this week with ‘The Artwork and History of the De Morgan Collection.’
On Thursday 14 January at 3pm, guest speaker Sarah Hardy, will talk about the little-known history of the De Morgan Collection, for which she is curator.
Evidence of the de Morgans’ artistic legacy can be found all over West London from the Tabard Inn in Chiswick to the extraordinary Arab Hall at Leighton House and 7 Hammersmith Terrace itself.
Although this collection of William De Morgan ceramics and Evelyn De Morgan paintings are internationally celebrated as one of the finest and most intriguing bodies of work created by a late-Victorian couple, its origins are surprisingly modest.
Evelyn De Morgan’s sister, Wilhelmina Stirling, began collecting their Pre-Raphaelite pots and paintings when they were particularly undesirable in the 1920s and 1930s. De Morgan tiles were so out of fashion that Stirling would drive around London pulling fireplaces out of skips to preserve her brother-in-law’s artworks. Her collection grew to be the impressive one it is today, initially kept at Stirling’s home until her death in the 1960’s but now housed in museums and galleries across the globe.
The De Morgans lived their whole married life in Chelsea, close to William’s studio in Fulham, and Evelyn’s in Edith Grove. Norman Shaw enlisted William to design tiles for Bedford Park and four houses there display in situ the original Bedford Park Daisy and Bedford Park Anemone to this day.
Sands End in Fulham was the final site of the De Morgan ceramic works before the business eventually folded. By this time William had perfected his lustre glazes and trained and developed a dedicated team to expertly turn his design ideas into reality.
William went into business with architect Halsey Ricardo and under his influence De Morgan & Co. produced large scale pictorial tiled schemes for interiors. Whilst William had previously designed such schemes, it was in Fulham where the scale and ambition were further developed. The Parrot Tile Panels were designed to repeat over 16 tiles so that entire rooms could be covered. A similar scheme can still be seen at The Tabard inn in Chiswick, London.
William De Morgan’s first major commission was to install Frederick, later Lord, Leighton’s collection of Damascan and Iranian tiles into the Arab Hall extension of his Holland Park home, from 1877 – 1881. This was pivotal in his artistic development as it first exposed him to original Middle Eastern designs which he would adapt and use throughout the rest of his career as a designer. Working under the celebrated architect George Aitchison and for Frederick Leighton, the notable painter and president of the Royal Academy of Arts, William’s reputation as a first-class tile designer grew.
Sarah Hardy will give an overview of The De Morgan Collection and tell stories about the pieces that can be seen at Emery Walker’s House at 7 Hammersmith Terrace - including the KL Rose De Morgan fireplace in the drawing room which narrowly escaped destruction.
This live, interactive talk is part of a programme of monthly events via Zoom. You can book your place prebook via Emerywalker.org.uk.
Emery Walker’s House in Hammersmith has been forced to close since March, so donations large or small are most welcome.
The Emery Walker Trust is a registered charity which aims to preserve and open the House for as many people to enjoy as possible. The Trust also aims to improve knowledge of the Arts & Crafts movement and the life and work of Sir Emery Walker.
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January 15, 2021