Pottery That Fired the Imagination of a Great Perfectionist; Antiques and Auctions - ARTS AND CRAFTS MOVEMENT: William De Morgan Studied Painting, Furniture and Stained Glass Long before Being Drawn to Pottery and Becoming a Great like His Mentors
Byline: JEFFERY MUSE
"A MASTER of integrated flat patterns" pretty well sums up William Frend de Morgan (1839-1917), a leading English pottery designer.
He was a major influence in the Arts and Crafts Movement and a lesser one in Art Nouveau in this country. But John Ruskin was the most vocal figure in the Movement, never loath to deplore the use of machines in art or furniture fabrication.
After a training at the Royal Academy schools in London from 185961, de Morgan grew to appreciate the way his friends Lord Leighton, William Morris, Edward Burne-Jones and Dante Gabriel Rossetti enjoyed art. He too for quite some time pursued all that interested him - painting, furniture and stained glass.
These idealistic men were probably the original champagne socialists, and really believed they were creating art for the ordinary working man.
Unfortunately, labourers could barely afford paper for the walls, let alone the hand-printed examples by William Morris, who began his business under the name of Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co in 1861.
The Arts and Crafts Movement was initially a development of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, because of the involvement of Rossetti, Madox Brown and Burne-Jones.
Most of their early commissions were ecclesiastical, calling for stained glasswork, with a little furniture, glass and metalware. Tiles were often just an afterthought to an order.
It was the success of his stained glass that led de Morgan to pottery and to become the designer of some of the finest tiles of the period. De Morgan spent years in chemical experimentation in the process of firing before he finally achieved success.
His father's death in 1871 meant the family moved to Cheyne Row, Chelsea, and in 1872 de Morgan set up his first factory for tile production.
He did finish some blank plates and dishes brought in from Staffordshire but as they are not wholly his work, they are not as desirable or as highly valuable as his own works.
De Morgan became known for his lustres and Persian ware, both of which took his designs from paper and placed on the undecorated clay.
The lustre designs were made by pricking out the original pattern on paper to allow the powdered pigment to pass through onto the undecorated clay beneath. These outlines then appeared stood out on the clay, which was then fired to seal it in. …