Two of the Arts & Crafts movement’s finest artists are celebrated in new De Morgan exhibition and gallery at Wightwick Manor

From Saturday 6 May, visitors to the National Trust’s Wightwick Manor in Wolverhampton will be able to discover ceramics and paintings by William and Evelyn De Morgan in a new exhibition, launching the conservation charity’s 10-year partnership with the De Morgan Foundation.

Hosted in The Malthouse, a new purpose-built gallery space, the exhibition will show over 100 ceramics by William and 18 paintings by Evelyn, loaned from the De Morgan Collection.

Night and Sleep by Evelyn De Morgan, De Morgan Collection, courtesy of the De Morgan Foundation

Specially commissioned new works that can be handled by visitors will also be on display showing how William De Morgan rediscovered the lustreware technique for which his ceramics are most famous.

William and Evelyn De Morgan were one of the most energetic and creative couples of the late 19th and early 20th century. He worked with William Morris, supplying Morris & Co with iconic red lustre tiles and decorative ceramics. She studied art at the Slade School and developed a vivid technique in the later Pre-Raphaelite style.

When building Wightwick Manor in 1887, Theodore Mander and his wife Flora were heavily influenced by the Aesthetic Movement and took inspiration from a lecture on ‘the House Beautiful’ by Oscar Wilde, decorating the Manor’s interiors with the designs of William Morris and his Arts & Crafts contemporaries, including the De Morgans.

Wightwick Manor was given to the National Trust in 1937 by Sir Geoffrey Mander, Theodore’s son and close friend of Mrs Wilhelmina Stirling, the younger sister of Evelyn De Morgan. Mrs Stirling would later go on to start the De Morgan Collection to safeguard, maintain and provide access to the work of the De Morgans.  Following her death in 1965, the De Morgan Foundation was established to continue to care for the collection.

Exterior view of Wightwick Manor and Gardens, West Midlands. National Trust Images-Robert Morris

Called A Better, More Beautiful World? the new exhibition will demonstrate the breadth of the De Morgans’ artistic achievements. Exploring the relationship between the artists, their social and creative inspirations, and their vision for a world without conflict, the exhibition will also highlight the links between the works of the De Morgans, Morris & Co and the Pre-Raphaelites that are displayed in the Manor.

A key part of the De Morgan Foundation’s aim is to continue to provide access to the collection by developing a network of strategic partnerships with like-minded organizations across the country. To continue the close ties between the Foundation and Wightwick Manor, a partnership has been launched that will see Wightwick as the Midlands centre for the De Morgan Collection for the next 10 years.

John Wood, Wightwick’s Conservation & Engagement Manager said: “The Mander family offered space for Mrs Stirling to store the De Morgan collection at Wightwick during the Second World War, so we are thrilled to welcome such a significant collection of De Morgan works back to Wightwick. The new display will also brilliantly complement the works by William and Evelyn already on display in the house.

“This is the first of a number of exhibitions celebrating the work of the De Morgans at Wightwick. We hope that through this exciting 10-year partnership with the De Morgan Foundation our visitors will be inspired by the artistry and output of this remarkable couple, the wider Arts & Crafts movement and the society in which they worked.”

Galleon Vase by William De Morgan, De Morgan Collection, courtesy of the De Morgan Foundation

Jean McMeakin, Chair of De Morgan Foundation said: “We are delighted to be working in partnership with the National Trust to share the De Morgan Collection in the superb setting of Wightwick Manor in this the centenary year of William’s death.”

The funding for the purpose-built gallery space at Wightwick cost £170,000 and was funded thanks to gifts from private charitable trusts and generous public donations.

For opening times and further information Wightwick Manor and Gardens

 

Two thousand ticking clocks form art installation at Nostell to celebrate one of England’s greatest inventors

From Saturday 25 March, the last day of Greenwich Meridian Time before the clocks spring forward an hour, visitors to the National Trust’s Nostell in Yorkshire will be able to see – and hear – an extraordinary art installation celebrating one of England’s greatest inventors, John Harrison.

Harrison’s Garden by internationally renowned artist Luke Jerram has been inspired by clockmaker Harrison, who created the marine chronometer and was born at Nostell in 1693, the son of the estate carpenter.

The exhibition is a display of 2,000 working clocks that will take over an entire room on the ground floor of the 18th-century house from 25 March – 9 July. In a fitting celebration of this local boy, Harrison’s Garden includes 500 clocks that have been donated by Nostell’s community, its staff and volunteers to add to those gathered by the artist.

Harrison’s Garden by Luke Jerram, credit National Trust/Simon Dewhurst

With no formal education, Harrison spent his earlier years crafting clocks entirely from wood and Nostell is home to one of his only three surviving early wooden longcase clocks, created 300 years ago in 1717.

This significant piece of horological history is at the heart of a second exhibition, The Clock Stops, which opens alongside Harrison’s Garden at Nostell. Visitors will be able to view the original clock up-close, alongside a specially commissioned film about the clockmaker and a series of displays which celebrate his work.

Chris Blackburn, project curator said: “At Nostell we celebrate the work of ordinary people crafting the extraordinary. We’re very proud to look after one of John Harrison’s early handmade wooden clocks and we’re looking forward to telling his story through this fascinating contemporary installation.”

The clocks in Harrison’s Garden are clustered to form patterns and shapes along the floors and surfaces, with each one set to a different time so that visitors will hear a musical delight of ticking, clicking and chiming throughout the day.

John Harrison, credit National Trust/Simon Dewhurst

Just as Harrison’s creativity started to tick at Nostell and developed over his lifetime, the contemporary installation will grow in size as it tours three other National Trust places across the country from 2017 – 2018.

Following its debut at Nostell between March and July, Harrison’s Garden is set to appear at Castle Drogo in Devon, Gunby Hall in Lincolnshire and Penrhyn Castle in Wales, with each place asking their local communities to donate 500 additional clocks to this growing installation. Jerram, a creator of sculptures, installations and live arts projects across the globe, is excited to see Harrison’s Garden expand in size and sound as it spreads into these historic spaces.

Luke said: “For me, Harrison’s Garden is an imagined landscape; a garden of clocks. It is a glimpse of a surreal fictional world or perhaps an image from one of John Harrison’s dreams. Like a garden, the installation is a living and growing collection of different clock ‘species’.”

The clock at Nostell that was created 300 years ago by John Harrison, credit National Trust/Simon Dewhurst

 

The touring installation is a Trust New Art project, a programme that enriches experiences for regular visitors and attracts new audiences who may not have the opportunity to encounter world-class contemporary art where they live.

Grace Davies, the National Trust’s Contemporary Arts Programme Manager said: “We are very pleased not only to host, but also grow Harrison’s Garden, which will be a remarkable feast for the eyes and the ears, and so fitting to the birthplace of John Harrison, reminding us both literally and metaphorically of the passage of time. It is part of a season of inspirational work by artists that shines a new light on the places we look after, giving fresh perspectives that remain rooted in our rich and varied heritage.”