When the De Morgan Foundation moved to Wightwick Manor in 2016, a new era began for it. With new rooms to display its wonderful collection, it was also possible to start developing new, outstanding exhibitions.
In this in-depth interview, curator Sarah Hardy talks about them, accompanies us in the discovery of the museum and unveils future projects.
The De Morgan Foundation moved to Wightwick Manor in 2016. What added value do you think this location has given to the collection?
The Foundation partnered with Wightwick Manor in 2016, rather than “moved” there. It was the third partnership we established in England, to display our collection to the widest possible audience. We already had sites at Cannon Hall, Barnsley, and Watts Gallery, Surrey. The three locations ensure that more visitors than ever can see the beautiful artworks. Wightwick in particular has added value to visitors' understanding of the collection, as they can see De Morgan tiles in fireplaces - their original locations - in the house itself, before studying them in detail in the art gallery.
You have recently shared some very interesting online events. Do you think you will still organise them in order to involve a wider audience even after this emergency?
Yes, absolutely. There has been such a huge appetite for the online talks and they help us to reach more people than ever before. By delivering talks online, we are not restrained by travel costs, and can record the content so that it can continue to be shared. We have also used new technology, such as 360 views of the galleries that are fully interactive, and we have placed the paintings on Art UK and Google Arts and Culture, meaning that huge audiences, and international audiences, can interact with the artworks.
If we think about some recent major exhibitions (e.g. Ulisse – L’Arte e il Mito and Enchanted Interior), it is clear that both Evelyn’s and William’s works of art were well ahead of their time. Where do you think their mastery resides?
The artists were certainly progressive, they had liberal political views, such as feminism and pacifism, and were interested in spiritualism. Trying to capture their own unique ideas to create beautiful works enabled them to express their feelings.
Is there an ideal British trail that you would recommend following for visitors who are eager to discover more about them?
Obviously, I would recommend a visit to each De Morgan partner gallery, at Cannon Hall, Barnsley, Watts Gallery - Artists' Village, Surry, and Wightwick Manor, Wolverhampton. There is also De Morgan ceramics at the Ashmolean, Oxford, and Birmingham Art Gallery. The Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool, Leeds City Art Gallery, and the Russell-Cotes Art Gallery in Bournemouth are all lucky enough to have paintings by Evelyn De Morgan in their collections. Manchester City Art Gallery has brilliant paintings by Evelyn's uncle, John Roddam Spencer Stanhope.
Can we already ask you about the future projects of the foundation, as soon as you are able to open again?
We will not only reopen our partner galleries, but also our exhibition Two of the Rarest Spirits of the Age at the Laing Gallery in Newcastle. Our exhibition Sublime Symmetry, which showcases William De Morgan's mathematical talents, will be shown in Spring next year at the Lady Lever Art Gallery, Port Sunlight. We are also planning an exciting international exhibition, having teamed up with Delaware Museum and Art Gallery for an exhibition on both artists in autumn 2022.