Harry Clarke (1889-1931)

LifeWorksCriticismCommentaryQuotationsReferencesNotes

Life
[Henry Patrick Clarke] b. 17 March, Dublin, ed. Belvedere; son of Joshua Clark, an Englishman who came to Dublin [aetat. 18], 1877, as a decorator to participate in the Catholic ecclesiastical building revival, with premisses at 33, N. Frederick St.; f. converted to Catholicism and changed name to Clarke, and m. Bridget MacGonagle; Harry was brought up on N. Frederick St.; ed. Belvedere; apprenticed to his father in glass-studio, 1905; worked with stained glass under William Nagle; entered Dublin Metropolitan School of Art with scholarship, 1910 and worked under Alfred Child; won Board of Education awards for stained-glass 1911, 1912, 1913; travelled to France on scholarship, 1914;
 
undertook commission to decorate Honan Chapel, UCC, incl. eleven stain-glass windows with Celtic Twilight subject-matter, completed 1917; took over the family firm (J. Clarke & Sons); did successful book illustrations generally showing Beardsley’s symbolist influence; health suffered from overwork, 1920s; death of Joshua Clarke, 1921; taught graphic design at Dublin Metropolitan School of Art; RHA 1926; visited Geneva as a convalescent in 1928, and returned in 1930, establishing a studio at Frederick St. premisses; Walter took over and Harry established Harry Clarke Stained Glass Ltd., 1930;
 

his commissioned scenes from modern Irish writers for the Irish League of Nations building in Geneva, with scenes from Irish Literary Revival authors, was largely completed in 1928 though not ready for viewing until 1930; displayed in the ante-chamber of the Executive Council of Dáil Eireann for two years from 1931, following the decision that it was unsuitable for the Geneva pavilion, and sold back to his widow in 1933; afterwards sold to America in 1988; Walter d. July 1930; Harry d., 6 Jan. 1931, in Coire, Switzerland; Harry Clarke’s grave was vacated in 1946 and headstone destroyed - the rental having been inadvertantly overlooked inasmuch as no one explained Swiss arrangements to his widow Margaret;

 
the family business was carried on by his son Terence with Walter’s dg. Ann; his yngr. son David became a painter; the company, Harry Clarke Stained Glass, closed for want of business in 1973, following a Vatican decree on suitable church decoration; Clarke completed 174 windows and some smaller panels; his church windows of the period incl. Castleknock and St. Joseph’s, Terenure, and Castlehaven, Co. Cork. DIB BREF

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Harry Clarke: Darkness In Light / Harry Clarke: Dorchadas i Solas (2003)
A documentary film directed by John Doherty with contributions from the biographer Nicola Gordon Bowe (NCAD) was released in 2003 and won the Best Arts Documentary Award a the Celtic International Film Festival in 2004 and a similar award at the Worldwide International Fantasy Film Festival, Toronto 2005.

Go to www.camelproductions.net and see “Harry Clarke” Wikipedia page.

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Works
Book illustrations
  • Ill. Fairy Tales of Hans Christian Andersen (London: G. G. Harrap & Co. 1916), 319pp), and Do. [US edn.] (c.1930),
  • Poe’s Tales of Mystery & Imagination (London: G. G. Harrap & Co. 1919), 381pp., and Do. [another edn.] (1923);
  • ill., The Year’s at the Spring: An Aanthology of Contemporary Poetry, ed. L. d’O. Walters’s (London: G. G. Harrap 1920), 127pp.;
  • The Fairy Tales of Charles Perrault, trans. Guy Miège, revised by J. E. Mansion; ill. by Harry Clarke; intro. by Thomas Bodkin (London: G. A. Harrap & Co. [1922]), 157pp.;
  • Ireland’s War Memorial Records, 1914-18, being the names of Irishmen who fell in the Great European War, ... with decorative borders by Harry Clarke, 8. vols. (Dublin: [priv.] 1924), fol.
  • The Origin of John Jameson Whiskey ... with drawings by Harry Clarke (Dublin: John Jameson 1924), 8° [copy in BL];
  • ill., Goethe’s Faust, trans. from the German by John Anster (London: G. G. Harrap & Co. 1925), 253pp., 4°;
  • ill., Selected Poems of A. C. Swinburne, with illustrations ... by Harry Clarke and an introduction by Humbert Wolfe (London: Bodley Head [John Lane] 1928), and Do. (NY: Dodd, Mead & Co.), xxx, 217pp.. 8°.
  • ill. The Missing Submarine, by Sealion [pseud. of Geoffrey Martin Bennett] (NY: Frederick Warne [1960]), 232pp.
Sundry ills.

designed first issue cover of Dublin Magazine for Seumas O’Sullivan [James Starkey];windows in Holy Trinity, Killiney (1919); illustrations of James Elroy Flecker’s poem ‘The Dying Patriot’ and completed stained glass miniatures of Synge’s poem “Queens” (1919) as well as others based on Heine, Flaubert, and Keats.

Stained glass

The Geneva Window consists in eight panels representing scenes from works by fifteen Irish writers - viz., The Wayfarer by Patrick Pearce; The Story Brought by Brigit by Lady Gregory; Shaw’s St Joan; (3) Synge’s The playboy of the Western World and Seamus O’Sullivan’s The Others; (4) James Stephens’s The Demi-gods and O’Casey’s Juno and the Paycock; (5) The Dreamers by Lennox Robinson with Yeats’s The Countess Cathleen; (6) Liam O’Flaherty’s Mr Gilhooley and “Æ” [George Russell]'s Deirdre, (7) Padraic Colum’s A Cradle Song and The Magic Glasses by George Fitzmaurice; (8) The Weaver’s Grave by Seamus O’Kelly and Joyce’s Chamber Music. This last-named is signed ‘Harry Clarke Dublin 1930’. The window, which was intended gift to International Court, Geneva, is held in the Wolfsonian Museum. It was displayed at Municipal (Hugh Lane) Gallery, Dublin, 1963-1980;

Other works incl. a memorial window for the Dempsey family at Lusk; windows in Bewleys’ Café, Grafton St. Dublin; “Eve of St. Agnes”; 11 windows in Honan Hostel Chapel, Cork (UCC); others at Diseart Chapel, Dingle.


Details from stained-glass works by Harry Clarke. (Camel Productions, Ltd.)

O’Keefe Memorial Window
Wexford
Wexford

The O’Keefe Memorial Window in the Church of the Assumption, Bride Street, Wexford, commissioned by the O’Keefe family of Faythe House and the Faythe Maltings, Wexford, following the death of their son, Lieutenant William O’Keeffe in his 21st year at the Battle of Arras, France, in 1917. The window, which is signed 1919, includes marine symbols of Wexford with the crest of the Royal Field Artillery and that of the O'Keeffe family. [Images supplied by Frank Callery via Facebook.]

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Criticism
Full-length studies
  • Nicola Gordon Bowe, The Life and Work of Harry Clarke (1889-1931) [PhD. thyesis] (TCD 1982), 3 vols.
    Nicola Gordon Bowe, The Life and Work of Harry Clarke (Dublin: IAP 1984), and Do., with forewords by Penelope Hunter-Stiebel, John O’Reilly, Peyton Skipwith, and James White [2nd edn.] 1994), xxix, 301pp. [winner of Prix de la Confe´de´ration Internationale des Ne´gociants en Oeuvres d’Art 1984];
  • Martin Moore Steenson, A Bibliographical Checklist of the Work of Harry Clarke (London: Books & Things, 2003), 126pp., ill. [some col.],, front. port. [25cm.]
  • Lucy Costigan & Michael Cullen, Strange Genius: the Stained Glass of Harry Clarke (Dublin: History Press Ireland 2010), 320pp. [Cullen’s photos of all his works].
Articles
  • Nicola Gordon Bowe, intro., Harry Clarke: Drawings and Paintings [Catalogue of exhibition at Douglas Hyde Gallery (TCD), 12 Nov.-8 Dec. 1979] (1979), 132p. : 24 ill. (4 col.), port., bibl., 24 cm.
  • Nicola Gordon Bowe, Harry Clarke: His Graphic Art (Portlaoise: Dolmen Press, 1983), 160pp., ill. [29.7.cm.; ltd. edn. of 250].
  • Nicola Gordon Bowe, ‘Wilhelmina Geddes, Harry Clarke and their part in the Arts and Crafts Movement of Ireland’, in The Journal of Decorative and Propaganda Arts [DAPA], 8 (Miami 1988) [q.pp.];
  • Nicola Gordon Bowe, comp., The Stained Glass of Harry Clarke, 1889-1931 [Catalogue of an exhibition held at the Fine Art Society, 148 New Bond Street, London, 3 May-3 June 1988] (Fine Art Society [1988]), [36]pp.
  • Nicola Gordon Bowe, ‘Symbolism in Turn of the Century Irish Art’, in Irish Review (1989-90), pp.133-44;
  • Nicola Gordon Bowe, The Life and Work of Harry Clarke (IAP 1989; 1994) [pb. edn.], and Do. [rep. edn.] (IAP 2004), 352pp. [hb. & pb.];
  • Andrew Haggarty, ‘Stained Glass and Censorship: The Suppression of Harry Clarke’s Geneva Window, 1931’, in New Hibernia Review/Iris Eireannach Nua, 3, 4 (1999), pp.99-117.
  • Tony Canavan, ‘“The loveliest thing ever made by an Irishman”: Harry Clarke’s Geneva Window’ [second Glance, column], in History Ireland (March/April 2011), p.34.
 
See also Virginia Teehan & Elizabeth Wincott Heckett, eds., The Honan Chapel: A Golden Vision (Cork UP 2004), 288pp.; English Illustrated Books of the 19th and 20th Centuries [Auction Cat.] (London: Sotheby & Co. 1975), 147pp. [incls. Clarke and Jack Yeats and Thomson, with num. others from Alastair and Beardsley to Peake, Rackham and Spare.]; other Sotheby Catalogues of 1976 and 1977.

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Commentary
Nicola Gordon Bowe, ‘Wilhelmina Geddes, Harry Clarke and their part in the Arts and Crafts Movement of Ireland’, The Journal of Decorative and Propaganda Arts [DAPA], No. 8 (Miami 1988), Clarke’s Hans Andersen illustrations were commissioned by George Harrap and successfully published in 1916. This led to the “flesh-creeping” Poe illustrations (in 1919 and 1923), a poetry anthology, The Year’s at the Spring, Perrault’s Fairy Tales, and Goethe’s Faust for Harrap and a Swinburne for Bodley Head. Brentano and Mead & Co. published the American eds., as did a number of pirate printers. Further, Clarke’s window commissioned by Irish Govt for staircase of League of Nations building in Geneva, rejected as unsuitable, and sold back to his widow. It was exhibited in the Style of Empire exhibition (exhibit. No. 159) of the Mitchell Wolfson Jr. collection for DAPA, Miami, 1985-6. [No. 30, 12] A few years earlier he also made a stain glass window for the Jacobs family in Dublin, with “the only proviso that he might incorporate the ideas of Night and Morning, Summer and Winter” (report in Irish Times, 9th & 11th Aug. 1924; cited in Bowe, op. cit., 1988, p.13.

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Andrew Haggerty (Broome Community College) writes that the Geneva Window was completed in largely finished in 1928 though not ready for inspection until 1930. Further, the window was viewed and debated by the Executive Council of the Dáil Eireann rather than in full session; the window was erected in the ante-room of the Executive Council chamber during its sojourn in Leinster house; the government took possession of the window in 1931 and returned it to Clarke’s widow in 1933 having held it for just over 2 years. (Email, 21 Nov. 2000.)

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Fiana Griffin, ‘The Glass Master’, in The Irish Times, 17 March 2000, Weekend, [feature article] p.5, gives account of Harry Clarke, the son of Joshua Clark who arrived in Dublin aged 18 in 1877 to participate in the Catholic ecclesiastical building revival; estab. own church decoration firm; converted to Catholicism; m. Bridget MacGonagle, of Sligo; adapted ‘Clarke’ spelling; Harry and Walter Clarke, b. 17 March in 1887 and 1889; resided in N. Frederick St.; summer house in Bray; ed. Belvedere College; Joshua opened glass studio in home; ed. Metropolitan School of Art; teavelling schol. to France; death of father in 1921; assisted Clarke took on the family firm (J. Clarke & Sons); health suffered from overwork, 1920s; Walter took over and Harry established Harry Clarke Stained Glass Ltd., 1930; Walter d. July 1930; Harry d., Jan. 1931, in Switzerland; grave vacated in 1946 and headstone destroy, the rental having been inadvertantly overlooked (no one explains to Margaret); business perpetuated by his son Terence and Walter’s dg. Ann; yngr. son David, a painter; Harry Clarke Stained Glass closes, 1973, as a result of Vatican Council policy on decoration; Bewley’s windows; “Eve of St. Agnes”, Municipal Gallery; Geneva Window displyed in Municipal (Hugh Lane) Gallery, 1963-1980; illustrates extracts from 15 Irish writers; intended gift to International Court, Geneva; 11 windows in Honan Hostel Chapel, Cork (UCC).

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Tony Canavan, ‘“The loveliest thing ever made by an Irishman”: Harry Clarke’s Geneva Window’ [second Glance, column], in History Ireland (March/April 2011), p.34: W. T. Cosgrave opened an exhibition in the Harry Clarke Studios at N. Frederick St., in 1925; Clarke was approached to make a window for the Irish office in the International Labour Court, Geneva, in 1926; visited Geneva, 1926; designed a work with scenes from 15 Irish writers; the work displayed in his Studios in May 1930; a letter from Cosgrave expressed anxiety about the contents, especially the scenes from Liam Cosgrave's Mr. Gilhooley: ‘considerations arise where a window is being presented on behalf of the government which in the ordianry course would not occur to the artist’. A further letter objected to ‘scenes from certain authors as representative of Irish literature and culture [which] would give grave offence to many of our people’ - objections taken to refer particularly to a panel featuring two naked women (and including quotations from O’Flaherty and from “Æ” [George Russell]), but also more broadly to the inclusion of writers of such dubious morality as O’Flaherty and Joyce as well as the depiction of poverty, prostitution, drinking, and dancing. Clarke returned to Geneva for treatment for tuberculus in Oct. 1930 and continued to correspond with the Government; continued writing up to his death on 6 Jan. 1931; three weeks later his wife Margaret received £450 and notification that the window would be housed in govt. buildings on Merrions Sq.; in 1932 Sean Lemass, then Minister for Industry and Commerce, sold the window back to her. The window was described by Thomas Bodkin as ‘The loveliest thing ever made by an Irishman’; in 1988 Clarke’s sons David and Michael sold it to Mitchell Wolfson, an American collector, who housed it in collection-museum at Miami Beach, Florida. Canavan’s article reproduces the whole window and, on a large scale, the offending pane figuring O’Flaherty’s novel, with the text: ‘She came towards him dancing, moving the folds of the veil, so that they unforlded slowly, as she danced’ (top left-hand corner), and, from “Æ” [George Russell]’s Deirdre: ‘I know the great gift we will give to the Gael will be a memory to pity and sigh over; and I shall be the priestess of tears’ (Canavan, op. cit., p.34.)

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References
Hyland Catalogue 219 (1995) lists Lennox Robinson, The Whiteheaded Boy: Play in Three Acts (n.d. [?1918]) [cover designed by Harry Clarke].

See Artnet biographical record taken from Grove Dictionary of Art
[...] In 1913 Clarke went to London where he was commissioned by the publishers George G. Harrap & Co. to illustrate a special edition of Hans Christian Andersen’s Fairy Tales (1916). His decorative, whimsical style reflects the work of not only Aubrey Beardsley and Gustav Klimt but also such illustrators of fantastical work as Kai Neilsen and Léon Bakst, whose work he saw in London. Clarke later illustrated Edgar Allan Poe’s Tales of Mystery and Imagination (1919), the anthology The Year’s at the Spring (1920) and The Fairy Tales of Perrault (1922) for Harrap. In 1915 he received his first stained-glass commission for the Honan Collegiate Chapel, University College, Cork, which was completed in March 1917. His brilliant colouring and lush sensuous fantasy, even in sacred subjects, were very influential and often had a morbid bent. He was elected an Associate of the Royal Hibernian Academy in 1925 and Royal Hibernian Academician in 1926. He designed panels for Bewley’s Oriental Café (1927), Grafton Street, Dublin, and for private collectors. His most celebrated work is the Eve of St Agnes (Dublin, Hugh Lane Mun. Gal.), commissioned by Harold Jacob in 1924. His masterpiece, the Geneva Window (1929), commissioned by the Irish Government in 1927, depicts scenes from 20th-century Irish literature with daring originality. It was not accepted and was eventually loaned to the Municipal Gallery of Modern Art, Dublin. In 1988 it was purchased by the Mitchell Wolfson jr Collection of Decorative and Propaganda Arts in Miami.
—View online [extant at 03.03.2011].

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Notes
Clarke’s Hans Andersen illustrations were commissioned by George Harrap and successfully published in 1916. This led to the “flesh-creeping” Poe illustrations (in 1919 and 1923), a poetry anthology, The Year’s at the Spring, Perrault’s Fairy Tales, and Goethe’s Faust for Harrap and a Swinburne for Bodley Head. Brentano and Mead & Co. published American eds., as did a number of pirate printers.

Áras an Uachtarain: a small framed stained-glass recently discovered in Áras an Uachtarain, now stands in the private chapel of the President of Ireland [c.2000].

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Eoin Duignan has created a traditional Irish music suite in response to Harry Clarke stained glass windows at Diseart chapel, Dingle. Acc. to Duignan: ‘The big turning point for me was discovering that Johnny Doran, the piper, was a good friend of Harry Clarke’s. For me that was the green light that dispelled any doubt I had about how the recording would be accepted, how it would come across and what the reaction would be to it. I didn’t have the confidence to just go for it until I read about that friendship. If Harry Clarke liked that music, then I just had to give it a go. I also had a lot of connections with Inis Oírr, and that’s where Clarke and Doran used to hang out together, so that made it feel right too.’ Duignan is a celebrated piper, here turning to the low whistle for its emotional effect. Contributors to the album include Liam Ó Maonlaoí (Hothouse Flowers), Steve Coulter (harpist), Máire Breatnach (fiddle and viola), James Blennerhassett (bassist), Virginia McKee (clarinettist) and Jon Sanders (Indian-harmonium player). See Siobhán Long, ‘Windows to the soul’, in The Irish Times, 30 July 2004.)

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Bewleys’, Ltd.: Bewley’s Cafés, Dublin, in whose Grafton St. branch a number of Harry Clarke stained-glass windows are housed, confirmed that it may remove the windows from Grafton Street when it closes the café there. Installed by the Bewley family in 1927, the windows are owned by the company although the building has since been sold to Treasury Holdings. (See Irish Times, 30 October 2004.)

Note, a Harry Clarke window, removed from Mungret College at its closure in the 1970s, forms a feature of the renovated café at Westmoreland St, also due to close.

Bewleys' Ltd.: In 1986, Bewley’s was acquired and operated by the Campbell Bewley Group Ltd. belonging to Patrick Campbell, a sculptor and businessmen. The café was closed during Nov. 2004 - May 2005 following renovations which were the subject of a challenge on the part of Ickendel Ltd., the leasee of the building. Lunchtime drama has been conducted successfully in the Oriental Room for several years.

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