Evelyn De Morgan made a extremely authentic and vital contribution to the late improvement of the Pre-Raphaelite motion and its merging with Symbolism. Her typically brilliantly colored figurative works centered on the feminine kind, particularly in allegorical, legendary and religious contexts. Though quite a few De Morgan’s work are well-known, her drawings will likely be much less acquainted to many and her beautiful gold drawings, which at the moment are the main target of a small however superbly crafted exhibition at Leighton Home in London, will come as a revelation. Solely 17 works of this kind are identified; 14 are on present.
Born in London in 1855 to a rich household with inventive connections, De Morgan was exceptionally nicely educated at house – she studied Greek, Latin and fashionable languages, in addition to literature, mythology, historical past and science. A radical determine in lots of respects, she later turned a spiritualist, a supporter of the suffrage motion and a pacifist. De Morgan’s formal inventive coaching began in 1872 on the South Kensington Nationwide Artwork Coaching Faculty (immediately the Royal Faculty of Artwork) and continued on the Slade Faculty of Artwork. She quickly moved to unbiased observe, exhibiting with success on the Grosvenor Gallery. Visits to Florence from 1875 onwards enabled her to check the artwork of the quattrocento intently and most particularly the work of Botticelli, which had a profound affect on her painted work. In 1883 she met the ceramicist William De Morgan, whom she married in 1887. Their inventive life collectively was divided between London and Tuscany. She died in 1919, two years after William.
Drawing shaped the preparatory foundation of a lot of De Morgan’s mature work, however the compositions proven at Leighton Home had been for probably the most half supposed to face alone as unbiased artistic endeavors. Edward Burne-Jones is cited as a key up to date supply of inspiration for them when it comes to each the strategies employed and aesthetic results achieved – he had used gold on paper with different media within the Eighties. However this should have been enriched by De Morgan’s data of Italian Renaissance artwork, together with the gilded bronze doorways by Lorenzo Ghiberti on the Florence Baptistery, and maybe illuminated manuscripts.
The drawings are of appreciable technical curiosity. The artist acquired so-called ‘muffins of gold’ – dry pellets of pigment – from the artist’s provider Charles Roberson, who served many distinguished painters, particularly within the later nineteenth century. De Morgan then floor these pellets to create each gold paint and crayons, made to her personal recipes. Each had been used on darkish gray paper – which proved to be the perfect foil for his or her intense, light-catching qualities. The paper has been recognized in two cases as coming from the famend French producer Canson & Montgolfier. The good care De Morgan expended on these works mirrored not solely a fascination with a course of at which she excelled, but additionally a perception that gold had a wider cultural, even religious dimension; she knew that the Swiss Renaissance alchemist and thinker Paracelsus thought of gold to be the color of salvation.
The prospect of salvation is widely known splendidly in Gloria in Excelsis (1893), by which angels announce the delivery of Christ by music and music. That is among the many most ornate of the gold drawings and illustrates brilliantly how a wealthy number of floor results could possibly be achieved with the medium. The cherubim and seraphim within the heavenly realm above the 2 central figures might recall particulars of Francesco Botticini’s The Assumption of the Virgin (c. 1475–76), which was acquired by the Nationwide Gallery in London in 1882.
The topics chosen by De Morgan vary extensively past Christian imagery and embody mythological compositions, reminiscent of Hero Holding the Beacon for Leander (1884), which reveals the Greek priestess Hero holding up her lamp to steer her lover Leander throughout the Hellespont; De Morgan gave this work to a pal as a marriage present. Probably the most formidable compositions deal with allegorical themes, as within the highly effective Victoria Dolorosa (1900), by which a knight is solemnly topped; it signifies a sorrowful victory, as battles have been gained however at a horrible value.
It could be arduous to discover a extra applicable setting for the exhibition than Leighton Home, as William De Morgan was commissioned by Lord Leighton to create tiles for its well-known Arab Corridor and Narcissus Corridor. Evelyn was additionally one of many first artists to exhibit her work right here, in 1902, following the transformation of the home right into a public museum. She earlier displayed a choice of her magical gold drawings on the Positive Artwork Society in 1889; nonetheless, that is the primary time there was a celebration of those beguiling works since then – it is a chance to not be missed.
‘Evelyn De Morgan: The Gold Drawings’ is within the Tavolozza Drawings Gallery at Leighton Home, London, till 1 October.