The De Morgan Centre revisits the lost paintings of Evelyn De Morgan

By Richard Moss | 15 February 2013

Exhibition preview: The Lost Paintings of Evelyn De Morgan, De Morgan Centre, London, until April 20 2013

a colour drawing of a woman with red hair
Evelyn De Morgan, Oil sketch study for the figure of St Christina© De Morgan Foundation
In October 1991, a fire ravaged the Bourlet’s art storage unit in New York where much of the De Morgan Foundation’s art collection was stored.

More than 15 paintings by Evelyn De Morgan and many other artworks were destroyed in what was a major blow not only for the De Morgan Foundation, but for lovers of De Morgan’s trademark brand of late Victorian and post Pre-Raphaelite painting.

De Morgan pieces lost in the blaze included Ignoto, The Marriage of St Francis and Holy Poverty, Attainment and St Christina, all of which were classic tours de force that fused her late Victorian and early Edwardian beliefs in spiritualism, pacifism and feminism.

a photo of a painting of figures surrounded by angels
Photograph of the oil painting Attainment, taken at Bourlet’s art store© De Morgan Foundation
These paintings are explored through surviving preparatory drawings and studies selected from the De Morgan Centre’s significant collection.

Colour photographs taken during the preceding years in the art store show the result of her creative process. The drawings also reveal a real sense of the intimate and familial scale of the artist’s world, offering visitors a rare insight into her working methods.  

De Morgan drew from life. The sketches and drawings she made reveal how she used a small pool of models, including her maid, Jane Hales, who famously provided her with a robust and strong female model and a distinctive take on the Pre-Raphaelite woman.

Family members and a small band of professional models also make regular appearances, as demonstrated by two studies of male heads, St Christina Giving her Father’s Jewels to the Poor and The Marriage of St Francis and the Holy Poverty, which are of the same Italian model.

The loss of the finished paintings was a tragedy, but these intimate studies offer an unprecedented opportunity to discover more about these extraordinary works of art.

  • Open 1pm-5pm (11am-5pm Saturday, 9pm first Thursday of month, closed Sunday, Monday and Bank Holidays). Admission £3.60-£4 (free for children). Follow the gallery on Twitter @demorgangallery.

More pictures:

a colour drawing of a hooded monk figure
Study for The Marriage of St Francis© De Morgan Foundation
a painting of a harbour scene with celestial figures descending a stairs
Photograph of the oil painting St Christina, taken at Bourlet’s art store© De Morgan Foundation
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