Sublime Symmetry: The Mathematics Behind William De Morgan’s Ceramic Designs

11 May 2018 – 28 Oct 2018

Regular hours

10:00 – 18:00
10:00 – 18:00
10:00 – 18:00
10:00 – 18:00
10:00 – 18:00
10:00 – 18:00

Cost of entry


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London, United Kingdom

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Guildhall Art Gallery presents an exhibition of mathematical ceramic designs by William De Morgan, the most important and inventive ceramist of the Arts & Crafts Movement


Heading to London for the first and only time, ‘Sublime Symmetry: The Mathematics Behind William De Morgan’s Ceramic Designs(11 May - 28 October 2018) is a free exhibition at City of London Corporation’s Guildhall Art Gallery, celebrating the work of acclaimed Victorian ceramic artist William De Morgan. An exciting collaboration between Guildhall Art Gallery and the De Morgan Foundation, Sublime Symmetry uncovers the mathematical concepts behind De Morgan’s intricate designs.


Sublime Symmetry showcases 80 of his most sought-after lusterware pots, decorative tiles, vases and plates, and has been curated from the De Morgan Foundation’s collection, with generous loans from the Victoria & Albert Museum, the London Mathematical Society, and the University of London’s Senate House. Exploring De Morgan’s upbringing in a radical, forward thinking household in London with his eminent father, mathematician Augustus De Morgan, Sublime Symmetry delves into how William applied mathematical flair to his designs to create stunning ceramics with his trademark patterns, symmetry and contours of shapes and fantastical beasts.

Inspired by Islamic, Middle Eastern and Medieval images, De Morgan is celebrated for reinventing lusterware, reproducing bright colours associated with Islamic pottery and his experimental approach to glazing and firing pottery in kilns that he built himself. Highlights of the exhibition include a Two Handled Vase with Persian Floral Decoration, the symmetrically ordered Fan Tile Panel (executed in yellow and magenta, making it unique in De Morgan’s oeuvre of Islamic blues and reds) and a Vase with Swimming Fish Under a Net.

An interactive programme of events for budding ceramicists and mathematicians will be held during the exhibition’s five-month run, including a Late View for the public  (Wednesday 9th May) and a talk on Evelyn De Morgan by Curator Sarah Hardy (4th September). Other events will include tile designing and kaleidoscope making workshops; a talk by Professor June Barrow-Green at the Open University (Member of the Council of the London Mathematical Society) on De Morgan’s work and its relationship to mathematics; and a family trail. 

A family friendly exhibition, Sublime Symmetry is supported by an exciting schools programme and a teacher information pack aimed at Key Stage 2 available at www.demorgan.org.uk/loans-and-exhibitions/sublime-symmetry/education.

This exhibition has been made possible by generous support from the Esmée Fairbairn Collections Fund, the Art Fund, and London Mathematical Society.

The City of London Corporation, which owns and manages Guildhall Art Gallery, invests over £100m every year in heritage and cultural activities of all kinds. It is the UK’s largest funder of cultural activities after the government, the BBC, and Heritage Lottery Fund. It is also developing Culture Mile between Farringdon and Moorgate – a multi-million-pound investment which will create a new cultural and creative destination for London over the next 10 to 15 years. This includes £110m funding to support the Museum of London’s move to West Smithfield and £2.5m to support the detailed business case for the proposed Centre for Music.


Sarah Hardy

Exhibiting artistsToggle

William De Morgan

Taking part

Guildhall Art Gallery and Roman London’s Amphitheatre

London, United Kingdom


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