Evelyn Pickering De Morgan
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Mary Evelyn De Morgan, née Pickering was a late Victorian artist who was born August 30th, 1855 in Victorian England. She was a privileged woman despite her parent’s initial disapproval of her painting career. She had an upper-class lifestyle and an excellent home education. She was also instructed at the South Kensington National Art Training School (1872) and at the Slade School of Art (1873-1876) under Edward J. Poynter. Her uncle John Roddam Spencer Stanhope (1829-1908) gave her artistic as well as moral support. Her early decision to dedicate her life to art coupled with her talent and other advantages gave her a confident attitude, so she wasn’t easily swayed by her family’s lack of emotion, sexist male artists, bad reviews, or lack of fans. She later left Slade to go after a more independent education in Italy. After that she returned to London to begin her painting career. Her work was first shown in the Dudley Gallery in 1876, alongside her painting St. Catherine of Alexandria, 1873-75. She was also one of the few women chosen to show her art (Ariadne in Naxos) at the new Grosvenor Gallery in 1877. Her work was also displayed with that of her Uncle, Edward Burne-Jones, and George Frederick Watts. Evelyn later moved her studio from her Bryanston Square home to the Trafalgar Studios at Manresa Road, Chelsea in the early 1880s. At the time she lived in London as a professional artist while taking an occasional trip to Italy where she was inspired by the early Italian masters. She did spend most of her lifetime perfecting her art, but she was also active socially. She attended the theatre, the Royal Academy openings, and art studio events with her friends such as Violet Paget, Emily Susan Ford, and Margaret Burne-Jones. She met the ceramic artist William De Morgan (1839-1917) and his family in the mid 1880’s. Her future mother in law, Sophia Frend De Morgan (1809-1892), was a spiritualist and social activist. She became Evelyn’s informal mentor to help further develop her interest in spiritualist practices and social reform. Evelyn married William in 1887. Despite the 16 year gap in their ages, they had a harmonious marriage. They both had similar interests and provided each other with moral support. Not to mention, they also had a good sense of humor combined with idealistic spirits. In the interest of her husband’s health, Evelyn heartily joined him on prolonged trips to Florence every winter. There they led a tranquil life. William worked on his ceramics while Evelyn created her pictures. They spent their weekends in the villa where Spencer Stanhope made his permanent home. Evelyn has created about 102 oil paintings and over 300 drawings. She was a spiritualist and practiced automatic writing with her husband. Because of these spiritualistic views many of her paintings show her strong belief in the afterlife. Her spiritualist writings were published anonymously as The Result of an Experiment in 1909. Evelyn, because of her spiritualist and feminist views, looked for strong-minded women to be the subjects of her paintings. She took biblical and mythological women like the Virgin Mary, Helen of Troy, and Medea to personify spiritual empowerment. She also portrayed early Christian saints, especially virgin martyrs. Her lifelong struggle with the limitations of her gender made these martyrs the pefect symbols of feminine power and social responsibility. As they were on the verge of war, Evelyn and William left Italy for the last time in 1914. They returned to Chelsea to live and work. The Great War of 1914-1918 unnerved them, since they were idealists. Despite Evelyn’s horror of war, she wasn’t afraid to record her response. She painted pictures representing violence, pain, loss, and redemption. Her last exhibition was held in 1916 at her Chelsea studio. This was organized for the British and Italian Red Cross. William died in 1917 (probably of influenza). Evelyn, however, lived to see the end of the war, but she died in 1919, so she didn’t see the Treaty of Versailles.

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