Rarely-seen Jane Morris portrait now on display at the De Morgan Centre

Rarely exhibited Jane Morris portrait now on display at the De Morgan Centreto mark the centenary of her death A
rarely-seen striking pastel portrait of Pre-Raphaelite artists’ model Jane Morris, drawn by Evelyn De Morgan, is now on display alongside Evelyn’s oil paintings at the De Morgan Centre in south-west London.

Jane Morris (1839-1914) was the wife of Arts and Crafts designer William Morris. She played the part of muse and model for a number of Pre-Raphaelite artists including Edward Burne-Jones and Dante Gabriel Rossetti – the latter of which she shared an infamous deep personal relationship with. Jane’s enigmatic, brooding qualities were captured for posterity in Rossetti’s Proserpine and William Morris’ La Belle Iseult, among many others. Though often depicted in her radiant younger years, this portrayal shows Jane in her advanced age. Jane died on 26th January 1914, and the De Morgan Centre is displaying this remarkable portrait to mark the centenary of her death. The portrait was drawn by Evelyn De Morgan, symbolist painter and wife of Arts and Crafts ceramicist William De Morgan. The sketch was intended as a study for Evelyn’s painting The Hourglass (1904-05), in which the
figure contemplates the passing of time and the journey towards death. Although the portrait depicts the ageing Jane Morris with silvery grey hair, in the final oil painting Evelyn has adorned Jane with her distinctive kinked brunette locks. For conservation reasons, Evelyn’s sketches, drawings and compositional studies are not kept on permanent display but are carefully stored and
brought out for special exhibitions; the display of this portrait in the permanent gallery is a unique occurrence. The sketch is displayed on the easel that Evelyn De Morgan used in her studio.

Curator Claire Longworth says, “Drawn circa 1904, the ‘Jane’ in this portrait is a rare, more mature, reflective representation of the iconic pre-Raphaelite beauty that we know so well from Burne-Jones and Rossetti’s images of the 1860s and 1870s.  Her inclusion as one of Evelyn De Morgan’s models is fascinating and an endorsement of the younger artist’s inclusion within the Pre-Raphaelite circle.

The display of this sketch is a fitting accompaniment to the Centre’s temporary exhibition ‘Men in Pants’ which explores Evelyn’s experience of life drawing at the Slade School and throughout her artistic career. This exhibition opens on 7th February 2014. For more information and the press release for this exhibition, please contact info@demorgan.org.uk. The De Morgan Centre will be open until 8pm on 6th March and 3rd April.

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