With public art collections closed we are bringing the art to you, exploring highlights and hidden gems from across the country in partnership with Art UK. Today’s pick: Guildford’s De Morgan Collection’s Lux in Tenebris
Evelyn De Morgan (1855-1919) was a feminist and spiritual artist. Her spiritualism and her interest in the cosmos, in the competing forces of good and evil, influenced her allegorical and mythical artworks.
The Latin title of this 1895 painting translates as “light in darkness”, a phrase found in the Gospel of St John, in which Christ represents the light. Here, the woman, clad in a shining gown adorned with flames, embodies light and hope. If you look closely, you can see she originally held a torch that De Morgan then painted out so as to add instead the laurel branch and ensure that her message of hope for peace was explicit. At the base of the painting, monsters – represented by crocodiles – prowl the water, denoting evil. But the halo of light and hope banishes these creatures, and sets the dark water aglow.