Torre Abbey opens its doors with free entry for all on Saturday 10 and Sunday 11 September 2016, with the launch of a must-see exhibition ‘Sublime Symmetry: The mathematics behind William De Morgan’s ceramic designs’.

This new national touring exhibition from the De Morgan Foundation showcases the work of William De Morgan, the celebrated Victorian Arts and Crafts designer. The exhibition presents over 80 magnificent works, including ceramics from the De Morgan Collection and his designs on paper on loan from the V&A.

The pieces have all been chosen to demonstrate the mathematical concepts which are the basis for his beautiful and colourful ceramic designs. Peacocks, parrots, bees, swans and wild flowers adorn the objects on display.

Families including young children will be able to explore the patterns, shapes and symmetry in De Morgan’s elaborately decorated tiles and pots. Making learning maths fun, there will be interactive games and a family trail that can be enjoyed by budding mathematicians young and old. The exhibition is supported by an exciting schools programme and teacher information pack aimed at Key Stage 2.

Executive Lead for Tourism, Culture and Harbours, Cllr Nicole Amil, said: “We are delighted to host this remarkable exhibition at Torre Abbey. The show has something for visitors of any age and offers a real insight into De Morgan’s unique talents. It is also provides a great chance to see nationally significant works on our doorstep, with activities, talks and opportunities to meet the curator over our launch weekend.”

Exhibition Curator Sarah Hardy said: “Sublime Symmetry is the culmination of years of innovative research into the famed Victorian ceramic designer, William De Morgan’s, use of mathematical devices in his ceramic designs. A visit to the exhibition will allow visitors of all ages to see De Morgan’s ceramics in a completely unique way. The works of paper from the V&A have never been on public display before, making this an exhibition not to be missed.”

The exhibition at Torre Abbey continues until Sunday 4 December 2016 and beyond the Heritage Open launch weekend, children and young people under 18 are still free entry with a paying adult.

The Sublime Symmetry touring exhibition has been made possible by the generous support of the Esmée Fairbairn Collections Fund, the London Mathematical Society and The Art Fund: Jonathan Ruffer Curatorial Grant.

Find more information on the exhibition and the free entry launch weekend go to or call 01803 293593. Book online for free ticketed events over Heritage Open Weekend and other activities.


Notes to editors

Torre Abbey, The King’s Drive, Torquay, TQ2 5JE, T: 01803 293953

Torre Abbey

Torre Abbey is Torbay’s premier museum of art and culture, housed in an Ancient Scheduled Monument and historic site telling the story of over 800 years of history. Home to the Borough Art Collection, Torre Abbey exhibits over 600 works in its permanent galleries, with changing exhibitions throughout the year. An exciting seasonal programme of workshop, talks, theatre, events and special days for families provides opportunities for audiences of all ages to explore the museum’s stunning site and gardens.

Heritage Open Days

Heritage Open Days is England's biggest festival of history and culture involving over 40,000 volunteers. Every year over four days in September, thousands of events across the country invite the public in to explore local treasures of every age, style and function. It’s your chance to see hidden places and try out new experiences for free. As part of Heritage Open Days, Torre Abbey will be free entry for all over the weekend of 10th and 11th September 2016.

The De Morgan Collection and the De Morgan Foundation

The De Morgan Collection is an unparalleled collection of work by Arts and Crafts ceramicist William De Morgan and his artist wife Evelyn Pickering De Morgan. The De Morgan Collection was formed by William De Morgan’s sister-in-law, Mrs Wilhelmina Stirling, who provided public access to the works at her home, Old Battersea House in London. After her death in 1965, the De Morgan Foundation was established to care for the collection. The Foundation’s drawing and manuscripts archive can be viewed by appointment and access to the De Morgan Collection is provided through a programme of national and international exhibitions and loans. Ways to follow the Foundation and its future activities include:

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William De Morgan

William De Morgan is considered to be the most important ceramicist of the Arts and Crafts Movement. He began his artistic career working alongside William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones before opening his own pottery studio in 1872. De Morgan’s experiments in ceramic glazes led him to rediscover the lost art of luster decoration and he excelled at reproducing the brilliant colours associated with Islamic pottery, particularly the bright turquoise which features prominently in his ceramic work. De Morgan was especially inspired by Isnik work of the 16th century and was responsible for installing and repairing the magnificent Arab Hall at Leighton House (Royal Borough of Kensington).

De Morgan worked primarily as a ceramic designer and had a substantial staff of decorators. During his career he worked on a range of commissions from stately homes to the Czar of Russia’s yacht and his tiles decorated the public rooms and corridors of several P&O Liners. He was a colourful character and many of his intricate designs demonstrate his invention and humour. However, his head for invention rather overtook his business sense and he struggled to make a financial success of the pottery.

De Morgan ran his pottery from three different London locations during the lifespan of the company. He first opened for business in 1872 at Cheyne Row in Chelsea. By 1882 De Morgan had outgrown this site and moved production to Merton Abbey, near Wimbledon. This was close to the workshop of his friend and colleague, William Morris. De Morgan moved the pottery for a final time in 1888 to Sands End in Fulham, where it remained until the closure of the business.

De Morgan was also a stained glass artist, inventor and chemist. After his pottery closed in 1904 he embarked on a career as a novelist and in the final years before his death he published seven novels, all of which enjoyed enormous success and brought their author the financial security which had until then eluded him. Alongside his wife Evelyn Pickering De Morgan, whom he married in 1887, he was actively involved with the issues of his day such as education, prison reform, the suffragette movement, pacifism and spiritualism.

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