Evelyn de Morgan
(1855-1919) was an important second generation Pre-Raphaelite and the niece of Spencer Stanhope. She is one of the few female followers of Dante Gabrielle Rossetti and Edward Coley Burne-Jones, her work having closer ties to that of the latter. However, Morgan's subject matter was very uniquely illustrated and filled with symbolism in a way that one cannot help but feel is being depicted from the female perspective. Take for example her painting of The Love Potion
. Unlike most of the famous male artists of the day, who's women even in the worst of times always appear "picture perfect", Morgan shows us the inner turmoil on the face of what the viewer can tell should be a lovely woman. However, the subject appears haggard by her jealousy and mal intent as she mixes her potion to seduce the man outside. The man is visible in the background, directly over the cup. He embraces his love unaware of the fate that is soon to befall him. This is a very feminine depiction of this scene. The viewer senses that the artist can relate to the feelings experienced by the subject and although the belle sans dame merci
is too embroiled in her act to notice, her black cat glares out at all those who are watching. Symbolically, the black cat is a witch's pet, and in this case it carries a double meaning. She is a witch in her heart as well as in the act of mixing potions.
De Morgan started study at the Slade School of Fine Art in 1873, only 2 years after the school opened, before traveling abroad to Italy in 1875 for 2 years. She was married in 1887 to William de Morgan, the famous potter and designer, who shared in her love of art as well as her political and spiritual beliefs. A close friend of the de Morgan family was quoted as saying "It is indeed unusual to find two people so gifted, so entirely in harmony in their art, who acted and reacted on each other's genius. Their romance is one before which the pen falters". This was also the year of the artist's debut at the London Exhibition. Evelyn believed very strongly in women's rights and her husband supported her in her endeavors to help bring about equality between the sexes. Evelyn was active in the Suffragette movement, and was a signatory for the Declaration in Favor of Women's Suffrage
in 1889. Her work was exhibited mostly at the Grosvenor Gallery and at the New Gallery during her lifetime, though she sold very few canvases and much of her work remained with her estate after her death in 1919. Evelyn's sister, Mrs. Wilhelmina Stirling, loved her sister and husband's oeuvre, and published the biographies of both artists. When she died in 1965, she left the collection in trust. The De Morgan Foundation Charity was formally created in 1967, and most of her output still remains with them today.
Because so much of her total body of work remains in trust, her pieces, especially those of substance, are rare to the auction market. However, those who appreciate and love the Pre-Raphaelite painters of the 19th century admire her work. Her most substantial painting to come to market in the past 20 years was her work titled Crown of Glory
. The piece sold at Sotheby's London, Tuesday, November 21, 1989, soaring over the £40,000 to £60,000 estimate and selling for £143,000, ($224,067). It set the record and still remains the highest price paid for one of her paintings at auction.
By Kara Lysandra RossSource
The De Morgan Foundation
, William and Evelyn de Morgan, 2010.