De Morgan Centre set for closing exhibition

By Ed Sexton | 15 July 2009
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a photo of a gallery collection with paintings and ceramics

The collection at the De Morgan Centre © De Morgan Foundation

The De Morgan Centre in Wandsworth will close its doors to the public for the last time on July 25 but not before one final fitting exhibition.

Curator Claire Longworth says local people have been left 'devastated' by the council's decision to close the centre but is keen to emphasis that the future could be bright for the De Morgan collection and negotiations are already under way for a new venue.

The collection features fantastic pieces produced by husband and wife, Evelyn and William De Morgan. It is the largest collection of William's ceramic pieces and holds a vast range of Evelyn's paintings.

a black and white photo of a man and a woman

Evelyn and William De Morgan © De Morgan Foundation

The collection was put together by Mrs Wilhelmina Stirling, sister of Evelyn De Morgan and sister-in-law to William De Morgan, who died in 1965 just three days short of her 100th birthday.

"She made it her lifetime's work to actively get out and buy back the De Morgans' works that had been sold as commissions or as part of exhibitions," said Claire.

"The collection was broken up in 1965 and pieces went on loan to a number of different places including National Trust properties before being reunited 40 years later when the De Morgan Centre opened."

a painting of a man and a woman floating through the air

Evelyn De Morgan, Night and Sleep, circa 1878 © De Morgan Foundation

She added: "It was a really exciting moment for the collection and it attracted a huge amount of visitors and scholars and it helped to build up interest in the collection and further research."

The centre has been open since 2002 but is scheduled to close due to a cost cutting drive and the trustees are currently in "exciting negotiations" to find a new home to house the complete collection.

tiles decorated with a galleon

William De Morgan, Galleon Tile Panel, circa 1880 © De Morgan Foundation

"The reaction we have had from local people is that they are devastated the Centre is going – there was a campaign to save the library where the Centre is based but unfortunately it fell on deaf ears when it was presented to the council," said Claire.

"Although we are sad to leave the Centre we hope that a new venue would provide us more space for a shop, a café and space to have resident craftspeople on site as a working museum - so we do have some very exciting plans for the future."

a portrait of a man with a beard holding a vase

Portrait of William De Morgan Painted by his Wife Evelyn © De Morgan Foundation

The De Morgan's last exhibition will feature artworks by Jon Catleugh who dedicated his life to the De Morgan Foundation and who sadly passed away at the beginning of the year.

Catleugh was a lifelong De Morgan fan and bought his first tile back in 1949. He was invited to by the trustees of the De Morgan Foundation to look after their ceramic interests in 1971, becoming the chairman of the Foundation in 1995 and later becomimg honorary life president of the Foundation in 2002.

a photo of a man with glasses

Jon Catleugh © De Morgan Foundation

"I couldn't think of anything more fitting – he was a shy man in some ways and didn’t like a fuss being made so we would never have been able to do this exhibition while he was alive but I think he would be very pleased with what we are doing," added Claire.

The 38 paintings that make up the display will be sold in an auction at the Centre on July 24 with all of the proceeds going towards funding a new home for the collection.

an abstract painting of drips and circles

Jon Catleugh, Untitled, Mixed media painting, 1990-1993 © De Morgan Foundation

Pieces from the De Morgan Collection will tour Japan and the UK during 2012/2011 and the curatorial team are working with the Watts Gallery to arrange a temporary exhibition but plans are still to be made formal.

For more information on the De Morgan Centre and its collection follow the details below.

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