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William De Morgan

William De Morgan (1839-1914) was the most important ceramic artist of the Arts and Crafts Movement. He was born on 16th November 1839 into an intellectual family of French Huguenot descent. William's father, Augustus De Morgan, was the first Professor of Mathematics at the newly founded University College London and he is an important figure in the history of the subject. His mother, Sofia Elizabeth Frend, campaigned alongside Elizabeth Fry in the early 19th century to promote prison reform and held strong views on religious liberty and women's suffrage.

In 1859 De Morgan was admitted to the Royal Academy Schools and studied alongside Frederick Walker and Simeon Solomon, who remarked on this "entirely uncommon place young man; tall, thin, high forehead, aquiline nose and high squeaky voice" - which earned him the nickname "Mouse". Henry Holiday was also in his circle and introduced De Morgan to William Morris. Two years later De Morgan turned his attention to the decorative arts and began his experimentation with stained glass. In 1863 De Morgan had his first real career break when he met William Morris and the painter Edward Burne-Jones. As Morris had not been very successful with ceramics, De Morgan took over the tile production side of the business and soon began designing his own tiles. He collaborated with William Morris for many years.

The De Morgan Foundation: www.demorgan.org.uk