William Frend de Morgan

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Invitation to the unveiling of de Morgan’s memorial at Chelsea Old Church
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Details

Name:William Frend de Morgan

Dates:1839 - 1917

Profession:Art

Address: 127 Old Church Street, SW3

Dates at address:1910 - 1917

Biography

De Morgan was educated at UCL and the Royal Academy Schools. A poor painter, friends Morris and Burne-Jones helped steer him towards pottery. Humorous, intelligent and innocent he enjoyed intellectual games and wordplay. He married Evelyn de Morgan in 1887.

A potter more interested in glazes than the pots themselves, de Morgan rediscovered the brilliant colours of the Middle Eastern lusterware technique. This made him the most famous potter of his day and his works include the incredible tiles in Leighton House’s Arab Hall. A perfectionist, the story goes that a mistake in 1907 led him to destroy all the notebooks containing his discoveries and to exchange pottery for writing. He published his first novel Joseph Vance: an Ill-Written Autobiography in 1906 and it became a best seller, as did the following eight books. Amazed by his success he quipped that he made more writing than he ever had as a potter.

De Morgan arrived at the Orange House in Cheyne Row in 1847 under something of a cloud; he had set fire to his old home’s roof. Learning from previous mistakes he built his next kiln in the garden. He lived here with his mother and sisters and they regularly entertained the Morris and Burne-Jones families. After marrying Evelyn they moved to Chelsea Vale, living next door to Whistler, before settling finally at Old Church Street, where he wrote several of his novels.

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