William de Morgan


William de Morgan

William Morris is possibly the most distinguished of the Victorian Designers – he was prolific for many years designing wallpapers, fabrics, tiles, furniture as well as his own house. However, there were many designers of the period. A less famous but equally impressive designer was William de Morgan. William de Morgan was a lifelong friend of William Morris, creating designs in ceramics, glass and furniture for Morris and Co, William Morris' business. De Morgan developed tile making into an art, and experimented with many types of glazes and firing techniques. He was drawn to creating images of animals, birds, plants and fish. Many of his designs comprised multi tile decorative panels, still reproduced and on sale today.

What work did de Morgan do with tiles?

Early on in his career De Morgan used blank commercial tiles to which he added his own designs. Later on he developed his own high quality tile which was highly resistant to moisture and better than the blank commercial tiles he had been using. He also developed innovative glazes, methods of firing and pattern transfer methods. As well as working on tiles, he also bought blank vases and rice dishes from Wedgwood and others and added his own designs to these. These are highly valued and now worth a lot of money in the antiques market.

De Morgan admired Eastern tiles both from a design, colour and glazing perspective. He adopted an Eastern colour palette of deep vibrant colours and created stunning designs of almost mythical creatures mixed with geometric designs within lustruously glazed tiles.

De Morgans pottery works never succeeded commercially and was financially aided by his wife Evelyn De Morgan and in the end was taken over by some of his painting staff. He then turned his hand to writing novels, at which he was significantly more successful, including the novels Joseph Vance, An Affair of Dishonour and Alice-for-Short, a genre described as Victorian and suburban.

Collections of De Morgan’s design work exists in many museums, including the Victoria and Albert Museum, and the William Morris Gallery in London, the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.

A number of historic properties in the UK commissioned and continue to display de Morgans work including Wightwick Manor, Standen, Blackwell and Leighton House .

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