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The Mourners

Evelyn De Morgan (London 1850 or 1855 - London 1919)

Category

Art / Oil paintings

Date

circa 1915

Materials

Oil on canvas

Measurements

603 x 895 mm (23 3/4 x 35 1/4 in)

Place of origin

London

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Collection

Wightwick Manor, West Midlands (Accredited Museum)

On show at

Wightwick Manor, West Midlands, Midlands, National Trust

NT 1288978

Caption

This is one of the series of symbolic pictures of war subjects inspired by De Morgan’s distress over the First World War, which she showed in her studio in 1916 to raise funds for the Red Cross. An original label on the reverse reads: 'The unhappy people, in their misery, are haunted by a vision of past happiness.' The picture reflects the artist’s preference for allegorical or symbolic figure subjects. The figures of women in rags in a barren landscape, all in sombre tones, suggest desolation and grief. They see a vision, bathed in golden light, of an idealised city, with disporting figures, symbolising joy and plenty.

Summary

Oil painting on canvas, The Mourners by Evelyn de Morgan (London 1850 or 1855 - London 1919), signed, lower left: EDeM. Four, circa 1915. Lamenting figures in robes with arms raised in despair, departed figures in background with circular swirling water/air.

Full description

This is one of the series of symbolic pictures of war subjects inspired by Evelyn De Morgan's distress over the First World Way. She showed this and thirteen others in her studio in 1916 to raise funds for the Red Cross. An original label on the reverse reads: '"The Mourners" (One of a series of six war pictures painted by Evelyn De Morgan) The unhappy people, in their misery, are haunted by a vision of past happiness'. The picture reflects her preference for allegorical or symbolic figure subjects. The figures of women in rags in a barren landscape, all in sombre tones, suggest desolation and grief. They see a vision, bathed in golden light, of an idealised but obviously Italian city and figures playing music, laden with flowers, carrying a cornucopia etc., symbolising joy and plenty. The picture has all the characteristics of De Morgan's work.The intensely linear quality and elaborately patterned drapery reflect the influence of Burne-Jones, and the imaginary bare and rocky landscape setting has similarities with his works such as 'The Passing of Venus' and 'Perseus Pursued by the Gorgons'. But the hard-edged draughtsmanship and dramatic use of colour are quite different, owing much more to her love of 15th-century Italian art. The strong composition, producing a vortex effect, is particularly striking.

Provenance

Bought by Walter Bagehot, the economist and historian, who had been one of William De Morgan's clients for tiles. He left it to his sister who lived in Longport, Somerset, until her death in 1934. It was then inherited by Mrs Elizabeth Mitchell, Bartholomew House, Woodstock, who gave it to her daughter, Janet Mary Mitchell, who initially lent it to the National Trust (at Lanhydrock, Cornwall) in January 1973, but decided by August that she would give it; transferred to Wightwick Manor in 1998.

Marks and inscriptions

E de M (signed)

Makers and roles

Evelyn De Morgan (London 1850 or 1855 - London 1919), artist

Exhibition history

Our Lady of Peace: The Pacifist Art of Evelyn De Morgan (1900-1919), Blackwell Arts & Crafts House, Cumbria, 2015

References

Gordon 1996 Catherine Gordon (ed.) Evelyn De Morgan Oil Paintings, De Morgan Foundation 1996, no. 95

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