Last chance to see De Morgan Masterpiece at Cannon Hall

Evelyn De Morgan’s Flora (1894) is internationally renowned as being one of the Pre-Raphaelite painter’s most accomplished pictures and a jewel in the De Morgan Foundation Collection. Such is its fame that it is leaving its home at Cannon Hall for an 18-month tour of the USA.

In September, the painting will be packed up with 70 other paintings and ceramics from the De Morgan Museum at Cannon Hall and shipped to America. This gives visitors a month to see the stunning works of art before they leave on their travels.

Flora was painted by Evelyn De Morgan at the height of her career. Depicting the Roman goddess of spring, the painting is a beautiful tribute. Flora is a typical Pre-Raphaelite, with flowing ginger hair and striking features. The model was Jane Hales, who was a maid to Evelyn De Morgan’s family. This makes the picture extra special to Barnsley. Evelyn’s mother was Anna Spencer Stanhope and grew up at Cannon Hall. Anna would travel back regularly as an adult and brought Jane with her. It is amazing to think this picture of a maid as a goddess is now on display in the rooms Jane would have known well. The De Morgan Museum at Cannon Hall is based in the beautiful family bedrooms of Georgian Country Houses’ west wing.

Flora was famed for her beauty as soon as she had been painted. During the artist’s lifetime Flora was displayed in blockbuster exhibitions in Glasgow and Wolverhampton in 1901. It was a star work and soon snapped up by William Imrie, a wealthy shipping magnate who owned the White Star Line, a company made famous by the Titanic. As the international appetite for British Victorian art has increased in recent years, Flora has traveled further afield to Japan and San Francisco.

Now, the De Morgan Museum which owns the picture is preparing to send this painting, plus 70 other works from the De Morgan Museum, to the USA for 18 months, for a three-venue touring exhibition, starting at Delaware Art Museum this October.

Flora is a key work in the De Morgan Museum which comprises some 2,000 paintings by Evelyn and her husband, the potter William De Morgan. William and Evelyn met in 1883, at a fancy dress party where Evelyn was dressed as a tube of rose madder paint. When William was introduced to her, he quipped ‘and I am madder still!’. The pair married in a registry office in 1887 and enjoyed a long and happy life together in Chelsea, where they each had a studio.

This marriage, unique for its time in terms of the equality between the artist spouses, will be the focus of the exhibition. It has been curated by Sarah Hardy, Director of the De Morgan Museum, and Margaretta Frederick, Curator at Delaware Art Museum. A publication to support the exhibition is being produced by Yale University Press.

The painting will remain on display at the De Morgan Museum at Cannon Hall until Monday, 29 August. The Museum is free to enter together with Cannon Hall, Park and Gardens offers a wonderful day out of art and picturesque historic landscapes.

Sarah Hardy, Director of the De Morgan Museum said, “Flora is a truly international painting. It was painted in Italy and has been displayed all over the world. This is a fabulous opportunity to promote our collection internationally and share the De Morgan’s works with new audiences that will have an impact on our understanding of them as relevant works today. I hope that people will take the chance to see the painting in Barnsley before its trip to America.”

Councillor Robert Frost, Cabinet Spokesperson for Regeneration and Culture, said: “Cannon Hall has a history of artistic talent, and we’re delighted that it’s the home of the De Morgan Foundation.   The De Morgan family have such strong links to the Hall and the area, it’s the perfect place for the work to be displayed.  The ‘Flora’ is a stunning piece, and we urge visitors to come and take a look before she departs on her travels.  The De Morgan Galleries and Cannon Hall are home to outstanding collections and people can experience them totally free of charge!”