A walk around Dublin is sure to bring you face-to-face with the work of stained glass artist Harry Clarke. Beweley’s Oriental Café on Grafton Street boasts six windows while across town, The Hugh Lane gallery is home to the 22-panel masterpiece, 'the Eve of Saint Agnes'.
There are many more examples of the colourful art beyond the city centre and indeed throughout the island, ranging from a single window at the Dominican Convent Chapel in Belfast to twelve lancets at the Chapel of Presentation Convent, now the Institute of Education and Celtic Culture, in Dingle.
Born in Dublin in 1889, Clarke was raised in an artistic environment. His father owned and operated a decorating business that included stained glass work, and as a teenager he took up an apprenticeship with the studio. Clarke then furthered his studies at the Dublin Metropolitan School of Art, where he won three consecutive gold medals from the Board of Education National Competition for his work.
In 1913 the artist found success as a book illustrator when he received the commission for 'The Fairy Tales of Hans Christian Andersen', subsequently published in 1916. During these years he also began to receive commissions for stained glass and established himself as Ireland’s top artist working in the medium by designing nine windows for the Honan Chapel at University College Cork.
Though he died from tuberculosis at age 42, Clarke left a lasting legacy in the world of arts and crafts. Today, his name is still synonymous with richly coloured stained glass and his windows continue to add a unique beauty to buildings around Ireland, the UK, US and Australia.
For more information on Harry Clarke and his work, visit www.harryclarke.net
Photos by Fergal of Claddagh