A rarely-seen striking pastel portrait of Pre-Raphaelite artists model Jane Morris, drawn by Evelyn De Morgan, is now on display alongside Evelyns oil paintings at the De Morgan Centre
in south-west London.
Jane Morris (1839-1914) was the wife of Arts and Crafts designer William Morris. She played the part of muse and model for a number of Pre-Raphaelite artists including Edward Burne-Jones and Dante Gabriel Rossetti the latter of which she shared an infamous deep personal relationship with. Janes enigmatic, brooding qualities were captured for posterity in Rossettis Proserpine and William Morris La Belle Iseult, among many others. Though often depicted in her radiant younger years, this portrayal shows Jane in her advanced age. Jane died on 26th January 1914, and the De Morgan Centre is displaying this remarkable portrait to mark the centenary of her death.
The portrait was drawn by Evelyn De Morgan, symbolist painter and wife of Arts and Crafts ceramicist William De Morgan. The sketch was intended as a study for Evelyns painting The Hourglass (1904-05), in which the figure contemplates the passing of time and the journey towards death. Although the portrait depicts the ageing Jane Morris with silvery grey hair, in the final oil painting Evelyn has adorned Jane with her distinctive kinked brunette locks.
For conservation reasons, Evelyns sketches, drawings and compositional studies are not kept on permanent display but are carefully stored and brought out for special exhibitions; the display of this portrait in the permanent gallery is a unique occurrence. The sketch is displayed on the easel that Evelyn De Morgan used in her studio.
Curator Claire Longworth says, Drawn circa 1904, the Jane in this portrait is a rare, more mature, reflective representation of the iconic pre-Raphaelite beauty that we know so well from Burne-Jones and Rossettis images of the 1860s and 1870s. Her inclusion as one of Evelyn De Morgans models is fascinating and an endorsement of the younger artists inclusion within the Pre-Raphaelite circle.
The display of this sketch is a fitting accompaniment to the Centres temporary exhibition Men in Pants which explores Evelyns experience of life drawing at the Slade School and throughout her artistic career. This exhibition opens on 7th February 2014.