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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating and full of colour, 7 Mar 2010
A. Byrnes "Andie" (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: William De Morgan (Shire Library) (Paperback)
The book is divided into chapter which reflect different stages in the life of William De Morgan. The photos are all in colour and it is printed on good quality paper.

Introduction. The first chapter puts De Morgan into his industrial and cultural context and gives a brief summary of his personal background and career. It establishes that De Morgan was not merely a potter but one of the leading exponents of a philosophy of design and artefact manufacture.

Early Life. Born in 1839 to parents who were both academic and involved in social reform De Morgan dropped out of college where he was studying Classics and attended art school instead. Glimpses into his character are given by reference to the writings of his contemporaries. Accompanying photographs show designs that may have influenced De Morgan.

William Morris and William De Morgan. Morris and De Morgan met in around 1863 by which time Morris's design and manufacturing company was already established. Meeting Morris introduced De Morgan into a new world of artistic people like Edward Burne-Jones, and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, together with a very distinctive design philosophy - the Arts and Crafts movement. The relationship with Morris helped to establish De Morgan as a potter as he provided ceramics for Morris's company.

Chelsea 1872-1881. This chapter explains how the kilns worked and what sort of people were employed in De Morgan's manufacturing business, some of whom remained with him throughout his career. De Morgan's designs at this stage of his life are discussed. Most of the renowned red lustre tiles are more from this period. Some of the commissions he won are described.

Merton Abbey 1882-1888. De Morgan followed Morris to Merton Abbey in South London. Much of the chapter is taken up with his meeting with and marriage to Pre-Raphaelite painter Evelyn Pickering, who sounds like a terrific character. the new workshop and some experiments with blank tiles are also described.

Fulham and Florence 1888-1907. The workshop moved to Fulham where a larger factory was built which had all the machinery and facilities needed to improve the quality and output of production. Designs became even more elaborate. De Morgan's deteriorating health meant that De Morgan and Evelyn had to live for half of the year in Italy at a time when the business ran into some difficulties. The management of the factory changed, as did the output. Although some good commissions still came in this was the end of De Morgan's career as a potter.

Best-selling Novelist 1905-12. I had no idea before reading this book that De Morgan had been a novelist. His first novel Joseph Vance was very well received, and others followed over the next 10 years. De Morgan and Evelyn seemed to have had a comfortable life up until De Morgan's death in 1916. Evelyn died in 1919.

Ceramic Techniques. This chapter makes it clear that De Morgan was not only a remarkable designer but an innovator in techniques of ceramic manufacture. The quality of the blank "canvas" was a critical influence on the quality of the design that could be produced. The various alternative methods of transferring a design to a tile and fixing it are described.

De Morgan and Arts and Crafts. The chapter begins with a description of how the Arts and Crafts movement came into being and what it consisted of. It also describes how and why tiles became a popular form of interior decoration. De Morgan's competitors are described - both mass producers and other specialist designers.

This is a lovely book, full of richly coloured photographs. The text conveys the essential history of De Morgan's life and his development as both a pottery and a person. His personality is brought to life by reference to his friends and colleagues and the use of letters and journals written by both De Morgan and his friends. He comes across, at all times, as a man bursting with humour and creative energy.

It is impressive that the authors have succeeded in packing so much information into one small book, and to have captured the essence of the man so brilliantly. They also give a sense of the versatility of De Morgan as a designer. I was aware of the tiles but not the stained glass windows, the vases and other stand-alone ornaments designed by De Morgan.

Excerpts from letters and journals are used throughout and these help to bring De Morgan and his world to life. Small anecdotes also help to make De Morgan a real person - for example when he built a kiln in the fireplace of his lodgings which eventually set the house on fire and led to his ejection from the premises.

The 64-page book closes with a list of further reading, another of places to visit and an index. The book is well made with good quality paper and dozens of bright photographs in full colour.

Highly recommended!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars William De Morgan, 23 Mar 2012
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This review is from: William De Morgan (Shire Library) (Paperback)
Informative and beautifully illustrated; another excellent Shire product which pitches the subject matter just right. Plenty of further suggestions where one can read more academic works - but this probably meets most people's needs.
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William De Morgan (Shire Library)
William De Morgan (Shire Library) by Bob Higgins and Christopher Sstolbert Robinson (Paperback - 10 Feb 2010)
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