Monday, March 17, 2008

Harry Clarke

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! To celebrate, I thought I’d post on an Irish artist, Harry Clarke. Sorry, no potatoes or four-leaf clovers here.

Clarke was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1889. His father was a craftsman who worked in design and stained glass, and his brother would also become an artist. Clarke’s passion was in stained glass but he also worked as an illustrator. I’ll be honest, it was the illustrations that first caught my attention, though his stained glass is extraordinary.

Clarke began his art studies in his father’s studio but was influenced by many artists and styles. He was influenced by Rosetti and Edmund J. Sullivan, and his illustrations were often compared to Aubrey Beardsley, who I'll post about later in the week. Clarke traveled in Europe during the height of the art nouveau moment and was inspired by the style. Also on these travels, Clarke visited many of the great cathedrals with their varied stained glass windows.

Clarke designed and created more than 130 stained-glass windows in his life. What strikes me about his windows is that the scenes have depth. The thick black lines of most stained glass windows makes it very difficult to create foreground and background. I think Clarke uses black differently than most stained glass artists, though. There’s a lot of black but it isn’t overwhelming. Click for examples of Clarke's stained-glass and check out the images below. What do you think?
As I mentioned earlier, Clarke also illustrated books. His first illustrations were for Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. The illustrations were destroyed in an uprising and were never published but that didn’t stop Clarke from accepting another assignment. He next illustrated Hans Christen Andersen’s Fairy Tales, followed by Edgar Allen Poe’s Tales of Mystery and Imagination, Charles Perrault’s Fairy Tales of Perrault, Goethe’s Faust, and Selected Poems of Algernon Charles Swinburne. I know that kids may not have heard of many of these books but they are all well known, even today.

Click here to see his fairy tale illustrations. When you get to the page, click on the thumbnail images because there are several pictures from each story.

Clarke died in 1931 when he was only 41 years old.

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Peter said...

Sincere thanks for bringing him to my attention! (Never heard about him; shame on me!) Just fantastic! Beautiful works!

Jessica said...

You should do a google search for some more of his illustrations. I didn't link to everything because some were too intense for kids. Especially check out the illustrations for Faust.

He also designed a set of windows (Geneva Windows) which illustrated works by many famous Irish writers such as James Joyce. They are spectacular but I couldn't find photos online. (Many of the panels would not have been appropriate to post anyway.)

Don't feel bad about not knowing Clarke. He's been mostly forgotten (a fact I hope I have help to fix at least a little). I only just discovered him myself.

Peter said...

Thanks for you very complete answer, Jessica! ... and now I don't feel so ashamed anymore!