Detail: ‘Eve of St. Agnes  H/t declan_maria
Harry Clarke, the son of an ecclesiastical supplier, was born in Dublin in 1889. He was educated at Belvedere College and then worked at his father’s studio. Clarke quickly established a reputation for himself both nationally and internationally as an artist of unique talent both in the media of stained glass artist and illustration. His love of the fantastic and narrative combined with his remarkable technical range and exquisite use of colour produced works of great genius that continue to amaze. He died in Zurich from TB in 1931 a the age of only forty-one.
Henry Patrick (Harry) Clarke, Ireland’s most renowned stained-glass artist, was born in Dublin on March 17th, 1889. His father, Joshua, arrived in Dublin from Leeds in 1877 and established a decorating business. The business, Joshua Clarke & Sons, later expanded to include a stained glass division.
The fourteen vivid and luminous scenes show how Porphyro, forbidden to pursue the hand of Madeleine by her father, creeps into the castle during the St Agnes’ Eve carousing and is led by Old Angela to Madeleine’s bedchamber. Madeleine, following ancient custom, has retired there fasting and unclothed to dream of her future lord.
Her dreams are fulfilled when Porphyro wakes her, and the two steal away into the gathering storm, past fluttering tapestry and the drunken porter. Clarke cleverly disguises the leading in the architectural and decorative features around the scenes.
“The Eve of St. Agnes” – John Keats
Numerous as shadows haunting fairily
The brain, new stuff d, in youth, with triumphs gay
Of old romance. These let us wish away,
And turn, sole-thoughted, to one Lady there,
Whose heart had brooded, all that wintry day,
On love, and wing´d St. Agnes´ saintly care,
As she had heard old dames full many times declare.
The dazzling colour is achieved using double-layered glass, repeatedly acid-etched to produce diverse tones, with minute detail scratched into the paint layers using a needle. Thus, the window is the result of painstaking work of the utmost complexity, and an extraordinary achievement.
Clarke absorbed several influences including Symbolism, Art Nouveau, Secessionist art, Celtic Revival but also German Expressionist films such as Nosferatu and the Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.