After seeing the inspiring Richard Dadd exhibition, I went along to the William De Morgan exhibition in the next room at the Watts Gallery.
William De Morgan (1839-1917) and Evelyn Pickering (1855-1919) were one of the greatest artistic couples… ever! William was the foremost ceramic craftsman of the Arts and Crafts Movement and Evelyn was one of the most significant and influential female artists of her generation.
William started experimenting with stained glass and ceramics in the 1860s and opened his first pottery in 1872. At the height of the pottery’s success, he employed more than 13 technicians and decorators to create tiles and vessels to his designs.
De Morgan employed various techniques in the production of his ceramics. Designs were transferred to vessels either by freehand from his master design, or by using a pouncing technique (dusting charcoal through a pin-pricked design). Tiles were created using a semi-transfer technique, whereby a tracing was made of the design and glaze was then painted directly onto the very thin tracing paper, adhered to the tile and fired. In the kiln, the paper burnt to ash and was absorbed into the glaze. This ingenious technique allowed De Morgan’s staff to produce many repeats of tiles whilst still conforming to the hand-made principles of the Arts and Crafts Movement. This method also allowed them to produce large pictorial tile panels, by simply painting glaze onto larger pieces of paper.
But De Morgan’s hand-crafted ceramics were expensive to produce and not affordable to the majority of the public who could purchase transfer printed ceramics at much lower costs. Despite the initial popularity of his ceramics, his business ran at a loss and only survived due to significant investment from his wife, and his business partner, architect Halsey Ricardo.
Today, De Morgan’s vibrant, attractive and often humorous ceramic designs are much sought after.
It’s a beautiful exhibition, you must visit the Watts Gallery this Summer!
The William and Evelyn De Morgan exhibition is on until 13th April 2016.