Why is the internationally celebrated De Morgan Collection on display at Cannon Hall? Director of the De Morgan Museum, Sarah Hardy, explains all as we celebrate #DeMorganMonth throughout April
One of my first assignments when I began working for the De Morgan Museum was to take Evelyn De Morgan’s 1894 painting Flora to San Francisco for a major exhibition on a group of revolutionary Victorian artists called the ‘Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood’. This group of seven young artists had formed in London in 1848, with the mission to disrupt the status quo and find a new form of painting. They decided they would find truth from nature, learning from science and drawing in the open air, and look to the art of the past (before Raphael) to make painting great again. They thought it had all got rather sloppy under Joshua Reynolds’s presidency at the Royal Academy. So they nicknamed him ‘Sir Sloshua’ and changed painting forever.
Their legacy affected a new generation of artists such as Evelyn De Morgan, especially influencing which artists she look to for inspiration. She followed the Pre-Raphaelites to Botticelli, the Italian Renaissance painter and his work particularly influenced her masterpiece Flora which is why it was to go on loan to the USA.
Other artists which were included in this exhibition were Evelyn’s maternal uncle John Roddam Spencer Stanhope. He had met the Pre-Raphaelite painters in Oxford whilst at university and become close friends with them. His paintings, such as The Women of Sorrento show links to Pre-Raphaelite painting. Look at the carefully painted shells on the beach which were taken from nature.
The blockbuster USA show was visited by nearly 100,000 people in three months, showing the importance of De Morgan and Spencer Stanhope paintings to lovers of Pre-Raphaelite painting. But when it closed there was no doubt where the celebrity painting of Flora should be on display. Cannon Hall was the obvious choice as it was a place well-loved by Evelyn De Morgan, having been her mother’s childhood home.
De Morgan and her family spent Christmas 1883 at Cannon Hall, on the occasion of De Morgan’s decorative organ panels going on display at Cawthorne Church. They are still there today and you can visit on Saturdays. They feature angels holding the animal emblems of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, Jesus’s disciples who wrote gospels in the Bible.
Flora is now proudly displayed at home at Cannon Hall, alongside ceramics by her husband William De Morgan and her uncle John Roddam Spencer Stanhope. To reflect the local talent of these artists the exhibition is called ‘A Family of Artists’ and we hope you will bring your family to see these internationally celebrated artworks right on your doorstep. Visit the Cannon Hall website for more details about the exhibition and museum opening times
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