“the quintessential late Victorian artistic couple”*

*Richard Moss, Editor of Museum Crush, on Evelyn (1855-1919) and William (1839-1917) de Morgan.

I’ve caught the exhibition Pre-Raphaelite Sisters just a couple of weeks before the National Portrait Gallery brings it to a close. Reviewing the exhibition, Claudia Pritchard wrote:

“Although the show works hard to establish these women as creative people in their own right, the burden of proof lies largely on the poet Christina Rossetti and painter Evelyn De Morgan. Christina was the sister of Gabriel, who humorously draws her in one of her famous tantrums, smashing the family home to pieces.

Rossetti’s poem Goblin Market, published in 1862, is an anthology favourite, but even here her success is defined by the poet’s male endorsement: family friend Charles Dodgson, aka Lewis Carroll, admired the fantasy, and it is pointed out that it influenced his Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, published three years later.

De Morgan, née Pickering and descended from the Earl of Leicester, studied at the Slade School of Fine Art, turned her back on high society ways, studied in Italy and exhibited at the Grosvenor Gallery, as did Marie Spartali Stillman, who also features in the show.

De Morgan’s restless and virtuosic Night and Sleep (1878) is a highlight of the exhibition. At a fancy dress ball in 1883 she went as a tube of red paint and met ceramicist William De Morgan, whom she married. The artistic partnership was fruitful, as was the couple’s friendship with William and Jane Morris.”

(Fiona MacCarthy: William Morris (1994) Chapter Thirteen: Merton Abbey 1881-83: (William de Morgan) and Morris set out to locate the FICTIONARY, as they called the imaginary factory they planned to occupy jointly, in a mood that was half serious, half spoof…Morris was delighted when an eminent analyst reported that a sample taken from pipes supplying all Lambeth was unfit for human consumption and could only result in zymotic disease.”)

You may have seen William de Morgan’s ceramics providing the sumptuous setting to An Otter’s Tale, a Christmas advertisement for the Spanish brand of Loewe. Blinkink‘s Nina Gantz directed the live action and stop animation. Gantz explained: “The brief from Loewe was to create a film that brings the world of British Arts and Craft ceramicist William De Morgan to life. It was an amazing world to dive into.”

Everything from the trees and foliage to the animals and scenes of burning flames was hand-crafted in stop motion animation, then integrated into the beautiful Leighton House in Holland Park – home to some of William De Morgan’s original artwork and designs. 

You can find on YouTube a 3m19s film by campaign on the making of An Otter’s Tale.

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