Evelyn de Morgan was extremely interested in spiritualism. Many of her paintings included allegorical scenes and figures and usually contained some
type of social or moral message. She often used vivid coloring in her
artwork. George Frederick Watts said this about Evelyn: "She was the first
woman artist of the day if not of all time."
Born Mary Evelyn Pickering, in 1855 in London, she was the oldest child of
Percival, who was a senior barrister. Her mother Anna Maria, was the sister of John Rodham Spencer-Stanhope, a
Evelyn's family was very wealthy. This allowed Evelyn to receive an
excellent education at home. She began to receive drawing lessons when she
was just 15. There was a conflict between her parents about Evelyn's
In 1867, at the age of 17, Evelyn began her studies at the Slade School of Art in London, where she studied under Edward Poynter. Within one year of
joining the school, Evelyn won several awards. These included a silver
medal, first certificate for drawing, third certificate for composition, and a
full scholarship for three years in which time she won many more awards.
During the time Evelyn was attending school at Slade School of Art, her uncle, John Rodham Spencer-Stanhope purchased a villa located in Florence,
Italy. This would provide Evelyn with a reason to travel to Italy and
further her studies.
In 1875, Evelyn went to Italy for the first time. She would visit Rome,
Asisi, Perugia, and ended up in Florence in 1876. She debuted at the
Dudley Gallery, where she exhibited her work entitled "St. Catherine of Alexandria". This exhibition brought her an invitation to display her
artwork at the Grosvenor Gallery, in London, which she gladly accepted and held
regular exhibitions. Evelyn would then move into her own art studio in
In 1887, Evelyn married William de Morgan, who was a novelist and also
created ceramic artwork and stained glass. Although William was an
established artist, he was not as financially successful, and would rely on
Evelyn for financial support.
From 1888 through 1901, Evelyn held regular exhibits at the Grosvenor
Gallery. She would establish a reputation that likened her artwork to the
artist Burne-Jones. The majority of her subjects were deeply rooted in
Her paintings such as "The Christian Martyr" and "The Worship of Mammon" were
enhanced by her superior drawing skills and sense of design, often painted with
striking color on a very large scale.
From 1890 to 1914, due to the decline of William's health, the couple would
spend each winter in Florence, Italy. This appears to have helped Evelyn's
artistic skill and her spiritual development.
It was during one of these winter trips that Evelyn and William devised a
method of painting using glycerin which was very hard to manipulate while
painting, but would produce a very clear and brightly toned painting.
There are records that show she exhibited at the Leighton House in London in
1902. In 1906 at the Bruton Gallery in London is where she held a one
woman exhibition titled "Anglo-Florentine Portraits". Evelyn also held an
exhibition of 25 paintings at the Wolverhampton Gallery in 1907.
Evelyn's horror over World War I led her to hold a benefit exhibition for the Red Cross at the Edith Grove Studio in London in 1916.
In 1917, William de Morgan died at their home in London. Two years
after his death, in 1919, Evelyn also died in London.
her death, her younger brother and sister made arrangements to have her artwork
placed on permanent display. The first display was at the Leighton House,
then it moved to the Battersea House, which is now owned by the De Morgan
Foundation. This foundation has one of the largest existing permanent
collections by a single artist in Britain.
While doing research on Evelyn, I was amazed at the brilliant colors in her
paintings. They are magnificent and breathtaking. The subjects in her paintings
are very detailed and almost lifelike.
You can view many of her paintings at the following websites:
Women And The Art World. 2nd ed. : Alpine Publishers, 1971.