Artist profile: Evelyn De Morgan

Artist profile: Evelyn De Morgan

Art is eternal, but life is short.

I discovered Evelyn De Morgan (1855-1919) while researching Dorothy Carleton Smyth. She was a Pre-Raphaelite artist who painted allegorical, Biblical, and Greek myth subjects, and was heavily influenced by Botticelli.

She never wanted for money, as she and her husband came from the upper class. She was tutored in art by her uncle (she often visited him in Florence, Italy) and attended Slade School of Fine Art, Britain’s most prestigious art school. Her husband, William, designed ceramics and was a friend of William Morris (Jane Morris’s husband). Although they worked in different media, the couple inspired each other creatively.

The Love Potion (1903) - look out the window to see an amorous couple.
The Love Potion (1903) – look out the window to see an amorous couple.

Besides art, the De Morgans were involved with the Women’s Suffrage movement, pacifism, and Spiritualism. De Morgan was deeply affected by the Boer War in the 1880s and World War I. She had an exhibition in 1916 of peace-themed artworks to benefit the Red Cross, and, to mark the 100-year anniversary of WWI, there is currently an exhibit of her pacifist paintings at The Arts & Crafts House at Blackwell, a museum in England. The exhibit continues through September 13.

The Field of the Slain (1916) in response to World War I
The Field of the Slain (1916) in response to World War I

I really like the Renaissance flair of the Pre-Raphaelite style in general, and De Morgan’s paintings are no exception. The theme of light and dark can often be seen in her body of work, and she executes that theme in ways that aren’t always in the stereotypical bad vs. good way. She has detailed backgrounds and employs an extensive knowledge of symbols to emphasize her subjects.

Here are some beautiful De Morgan paintings:

Not only is this painting below very well done, the painting within it is interesting. I assume it’s Jesus and St. Francis, but I’m not sure who the woman is. It almost looks like Jesus is marrying them, since he has their hands touching. Maybe it’s St. Clare?

The Crown of Glory (1896)
The Crown of Glory (1896)

Night and Sleep (1878)
Night and Sleep (1878)
Hope in the Prison of Despair (1887)
Hope in the Prison of Despair (1887)
Ariadne in Naxos (1877) showing Ariadne after Theseus had abandoned her
Ariadne in Naxos (1877) showing Ariadne after Theseus had abandoned her

I love the companion pieces Cassandra and Helen. The two women are kind of like bookends to the Trojan War: when Paris kidnapped Helen and brought her to Troy, his sister Cassandra, who could see into the future, warned everyone that this act would result in the destruction of the city. So Helen’s arrival is the beginning of the war and Cassandra’s vision is the end.

Cassandra (left) and Helen (right) (both 1898)
Cassandra (left) and Helen (right) (both 1898)

Evelyn De Morgan brilliantly contrasts the two women while mirroring their poses: Helen holds up her hair to admire it while Cassandra tears at hers in angst; Helen’s background is a tranquil body of water while Cassandra’s is the burning city (with the Trojan Horse in the center left); the roses at Helen’s feet are fresh and white, while Cassandra’s are red and dying.

Links for Evelyn de Morgan:

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s