Monday, 10 July 2017

Harry Clarke - part 1


Artist Harry Clarke was born in Dublin, Ireland, on 17th March 1889. He was a leading artist of the Irish Arts and Crafts Movement, as well as the Golden Age of Illustration.
The son of a craftsman (Joshua Clarke), Harry Clarke was exposed to art (and in particular Art Nouveau) at an early age. He went to school at Belvedere College, and by his late teens was studying stained glass at the Dublin Art School. While there, his The Consecration of St Mel, Bishop of Longford, by St Patrick won the gold medal for stained glass work in the 1910 Board of Education National Competition.
After completing his education, Clarke moved to London to seek work as an artist. He won commissions to work on illustrations for new editions of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” and Alexander Pope’s “The Rape of the Lock,” but completed neither of them. As it turned out, his first completed work was illustrating Hans Christian Andersen’s Fairy Tales (1916). 

Clarke’s next endeavour was a series of illustrations for an edition of Edgar Allan Poe’s  “ Tales of Mystery and Imagination” (1916). This work sealed his reputation as a skilled illustrator, and was followed by editions of “The Years at the Spring” (1920), containing twelve colour plates and more than fourteen monotone images, Charles Perrault’s “Fairy Tales of Perrault” (1922), and Goethe’s “Faust” (1927), containing eight colour plates and more than seventy monotone and duotone images. The last of these is considered his masterwork – and largely prefigures the disturbing yet colourful imagery of 1960s psychedelia.

Clarke’s timing could not have been more perfect, as he was working as an illustrator just as the golden-age of gift-book illustration was taking off (in the first quarter of the twentieth century). His work can be compared to other masters of the craft such as Arthur Rackham, Kay Nielsen and Virginia Frances Sterrett.  

Two of his most sought-after titles include promotional booklets for Jameson Irish Whiskey: “A History of a Great House” (1924) and “Elixir of Life” (1925), which was written by Geoffrey Warren. Clarke’s final book was the “Selected Poems of Algernon by Charles Swinburne,” published in 1928.

During the 1920s, he also directed much of his attention at stained glass, producing more than 130 windows. Alongside his brother Walter, Clarke took over their father’s artist studio. (Their father had died in 1921). His glass is distinguished by the finesse of its drawing, unusual in the medium, his use of rich colours (inspired by an early visit to see the stained glass of the Cathedral of Chartres, he was especially fond of deep blues), and an innovative integration of the window leading as part of the overall design (his use of heavy lines in his black and white book illustrations is probably derived from his glass techniques).

Clarke’s best-known stained-glass works are the windows of the Honan Chapel in University College Cork, the windows of Bewley’s Café on Dublin’s Grafton Street, and the window illustrating John Keats’ The Eve of St. Agnes in the Hugh Lane Municipal Gallery in Dublin

Clarke died of tuberculosis on 6th January 1931 (while attempting to convalesce in Switzerland). Ill health had plagued both brothers, and his younger sibling died a year previous. Influenced by both Art Nouveau and Art Deco, Clarke’s illustrations and stained glass work remain highly sought after and appreciated in the present-day.

Harry created over 160 stained glass windows for religious and commercial commissions throughout Ireland and England, and as far a field as the USA and Australia. Clarke is known as Ireland's greatest ever stained glass artist.

This is part 1 of a 7-part series on the works of Harry Clarke:

1913 "The Dream"
from The Rape of Lock by Pope

1913 "The Silver Apples of the Moon, The Golden Apples of the Sun"
The Irish Review July 1913

1913 De Profundis ( Oscar Wilde )
watercolour and gouache 57.5 x 25.7 cm

1913 Rime of the Ancient Mariner:

1913 The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

1913 The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
Ah! Well a-day! What evil looks had I from old and young! Instead of the cross, the albatross around my neck was hung

1913 The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
The souls did from their body fly, — they fled to bliss or woe! And every soul, it passed by me, like the whizz of my cross-bow!

1914 Hibernia
calendar design for an insurance company

1914 Mephisto
pencil, pen and black ink and watercolour on paper 19 x 15.9 cm

1916 Hans Andersen's Fairy Tales:














































































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