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UNPUBLISHED ARTS & CRAFTS MEMOIR William de Morgan The Potter as I Knew Him with an Appreciation by Halsey Ricardo

Emilie Russell Barrington & Halsey Ricardo
Unknown except for a single copy held by the De Morgan Foundation, this is a full length memoir written by the artist and writer Emilie Russell B… Read more
Published in 1930 by Unpublished.
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UNPUBLISHED ARTS & CRAFTS MEMOIR William de Morgan The Potter as I Knew Him with an Appreciation by Halsey Ricardo by Emilie Russell Barrington & Halsey Ricardo

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Unknown except for a single copy held by the De Morgan Foundation, this is a full length memoir written by the artist and writer Emilie Russell Barrington in which she recalls her decades-long friendship with the preeminent Arts and Crafts designer, potter and friend of William Morris, William de Morgan. In this memoir which she wrote in the final years of her life, Barrington combines personal reminiscence of conversations with De Morgan, visits to his various workshops which include magical memories of visiting the studio shared by De Morgan and William Morris at Merton Abbey and more technical discussions of De Morgan’s art and achievements. Presented here as a carbon-copy typescript which has been bound in vellum by a Jermyn Street art supplier, it is assumed there were never more than a handful of these texts in existence. William Gaunt’s 1971 monograph on William De Morgan, published by Studio Vista cites the work in its bibliography without giving a location - assumed to be the copy owned by the De Morgan Foundation. The work of an expert, published author, it is certainly worthy of publication which will be the prerogative of the typescript’s next owner.

PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION Quarto-sized typescript bound in full vellum with red and black calligraphic titling to the upper cover. Three punched holes in the spine now secure the text block with tied string, probably replacing the original silk ties. Binder’s label of ‘Lechertier Barbe’ of Jermyn Street to the final pastedown - colourmen and stationers who supplied artists from Rossetti to Monet. Flyleaf - two calligaphic quotations from De Morgan and Reginald Blunt about Morgan. The typescript a mixture of carbon copies and top copy; occasional erasures and corrections in type. The work proceeds via a Preface and very long introduction, ff38 to the main text ff86 and Halsey Ricardo’s Appreciation, ff87-96, c20,000 words.

TEXT: Barrington begins with affectionate memories of ‘The friendship between William de Morgan and myself [which] began in 1873... In the following pages I have described as best I can, Morgan’s unique gifts... and his character as a man’ acknowledging the help she received in this task from De Morgan’s business partner Halsey Ricardo and Mr Mossop. Her original meeting with De Morgan is recalled in detail, early in Chapter I: ‘The first visit I paid de Morgan was in 1873, when I took my friend Octavia Hill to his show-room to choose tiles which she wished to place round the walls of a courtyard leading out of Marylebone Road owned by Ruskin... I remember him well... the tall, spare, square-shouldered figure... the high-pitched, puling, nevertheless pleasant voice, as he discoursed...’ She records De Morgan’s ’ (p2) purchase of ‘a skeleton from which to learn the anatomy of the human form, but when he became a potter... he presented me with the skeleton’ and a marvellous visit to De Morgan’s potteries which sat alongside Morris’s workshops at Merton Abbey: ‘I still retain the sunlit picture of the girls working at the handlooms, the sound of the gurgling river coming through the window, and a warm western light shining on the bright hair and coloured garments of this row of maidens as they threw their shuttles in weaving the tapestries.’ Barrington continues with a discussion of his work as an artist, often quoting from their correspondence and adding first-hand accounts of his comments to her: ‘People pretend to care for the things, and yet do nothing to make it possible for the things to be made’ (p18). Barrington considers the reasons for De Morgan’s break with painting, the closure of his works, and the challenges posed by his technical innovation. There are frequent stories of time spent together at de Morgan’s house - ‘The vale, De Morgan came down from his study after working at his novel “When Ghost meets Ghost.” I asked him, “But when will it be be finished?” He said, “I don’t think it will ever be finished. They won’t do anything to finish it.” His puppets had jibbed - they would not move on.”’ Barrington draws fascinating parallels between De Morgan’s sense of visual structure ‘within the unpromising limited square of a tile’ and ‘in his writing’ (p30), particularly the beautiful story of a unique lustre tile painted for her by De Morgan to commemorate a miscarriage or baby’s death ‘A little baby in a tiny boat is taking a lonely voyage on wide-spread waters of the ocean... All that is expressed within the limits of a six inch tile!’. A mixture of personal reminiscence and artistic analysis, this is a text of some considerable historical importance written by someone who knew all the main players in the Arts and Crafts movement and was herself a published writer of considerable skill.

Emilie Russell Barrington was an artist and novelist (1841-1933) who was involved with the 19th century artists’ group known as the Holland Park Circle, herself living in Melbury Road where she was instrumental in founding the Leighton House Museum and wrote biographies of both Leighton and George Frederic Watts. This text adds to the recognised corpus of her writings. William De Morgan’s graphic work and tiles are collected with a passion by his devotees.


Full details

Added under Manuscript
Publisher Unpublished
Date published 1930
Subject 1 Manuscript
First edition Yes
Product code 8581


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