Curated in conjunction with Arts and Crafts property, National Trust Standen, De Morgans and the Sea gives visitors the opportunity to explore maritime influences in the work of the De Morgans. The theme of the sea was a major source of inspiration for both William De Morgan’s Arts and Crafts ceramics and his wife Evelyn’s paintings. Medieval galleons manned by sailors on the lookout for giant fish, dolphins and sea monsters form part of William De Morgan’s quirky cast of characters. Evelyn’s paintings of mythological subjects such as Ariadne (looking more stoical than distraught after being abandoned on the island of Naxos by her lover Theseus) or her depictions of Hans Christian Anderson’s much adored little mermaid reinterpret these classic tales for a new audience.
As well as drawing inspiration from the sea, much of De Morgan’s work was destined to travel the waves themselves, as commissions for the P&O shipping line. The superlative Galleon tile panel, designed for the P&O ship S.S.Malta in 1895, will be exhibited alongside key pieces from the De Morgan collection, including a spectacular moonlight lustre punch bowl depicting fanciful fish which represents the pinnacle of De Morgan’s technical prowess, and a very rare, early seahorse tile whose production techniques mirror the matt quality of Morris and Co. tiles. Among Evelyn’s exhibited works are the nude male figures of Phosphorous and Hesperus, which, imbued with potent sexual symbolism in the form of phallic torches and conch shells, caused scandal and controversy when first exhibited, and the allegorical ‘S.O.S’ with its symbolic sea monsters representing evil and death.
The De Morgan Centre, 38 West Hill, London, SW18 1RX. Phone: 020 8871 1144