Lady Lever stages sublime William De Morgan exhibition


The stunning work of leading Victorian ceramicist William De Morgan is going on show in a new exhibition at the Lady Lever Art Gallery.

De Morgan was one of the most inventive and innovative designers in the Arts and Crafts movement and Sublime Symmetry: De Morgan Ceramics – which runs at the Port Sunlight gallery until January – features around 70 pieces loaned from the De Morgan Foundation.

They include his Symmetrical Crowned Swans plate; tiles featuring the mythical griffin, a creature part-lion and part-eagle, as well as a swimming birds’ dish with stylised waves and another set of swans, this time in rotational symmetry.

Examples of his complex peacock and carnation tiles are also included in the exhibition, as are fantastical and mythical beasts and fanciful flora.

William De Morgan was born in in 1839 to Augustus De Morgan, a professor of mathematics, and the social reformer Sophia Frend, and as a child he made a close study of Thomas Bewick’s 1797 work History of British Birds.

Above: William De Morgan and his wife Evelyn c1900. Top: Symmetrical Crowned Swans plate. Both images © De Morgan Collection, courtesy of the De Morgan Foundation


He started his formal training in fine art before becoming interested in the decorative arts, bringing his scientific and mathematical investigations into his designs and creating lustrous glazes.

His earliest decorative designs were in stained glass before turning to tiles and then other ceramics.

Along with beautiful examples of his art, the Lady Lever exhibition also includes an exploration of De Morgan’s life and the early influence of William Morris on his work.

Above: Griffin tile. © De Morgan Collection, courtesy of the De Morgan Foundation


Curator Nicola Scott says: “De Morgan combined technical genius with artistic flair to create these symmetrical designs, with patterns of birds and mythical creatures amongst his most imaginative and iconic. The exhibition celebrates the structure and technical process of the artist as well as the beauty of the ceramics.

“On a personal note, I can't help but think of Liverpool with its Liver Bird emblem and the fabulous Audubon books in the city’s Central Library with their exquisite and world-famous bird illustrations.

"Liverpool City Region feels like the perfect place to celebrate this imaginative, technical and bird-loving genius.”

Sublime Symmetry: De Morgan Ceramics is at the Lady Lever Art Gallery from October 1 to January 9 2022.