William de Morgan studied at the Royal Academy Schools where other students nicknamed him ‘Mouse’ for his unremarkable appearance and high-pitched voice. Initially a painter, de Morgan began to experiment with stained glass and ceramics and had his first big break in 1863 when a mutual friend introduced him to William Morris and Edward Burne Jones. The two Williams were soon collaborating on designs for tiles, and between 1882 and 1900 William De Morgan provided decorative tile panels for 12 P&O liners. In 1887, he married Evelyn De Morgan, a fellow artist - her painting was categorised by a bold use of colour and heavy use of symbolism. Both the De Morgans were interested in spiritualism, then much in fashion, and this influenced the designs of both husband and wife. Sir Edward Poynter, President of the Royal Academy, called the pair ‘two of the rarest spirits of the age’. Towards the end of his life William was plagued with ill health and gave up working in 1904. Although he’s best known as a ceramicist, his greatest financial success was as a novelist when he took up writing at the age of 65.
William De Morgan is best known for the beauty and purity of his glazes and his lustre ware and decorative tiles, now considered miniature works of art, have remained a firm favourite with collectors. In line with the Arts and Crafts ethos he rejected mass production methods in favour of craftsmanship, but his output remained prolific and he produced more than 300 different designs in his lifetime. Of particular interest are his Sunlight and Moonlight series, with technically brilliant double and triple lustre effects. As with all pottery, the value of the individual item is largely dependent on the age, condition and rarity. Any damage reduces value considerably, but good, clean examples with no chips or cracks are in demand.
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