Exploring the Sacred

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Beholding the Sacred

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Harry Clarke (1889 to 1931) was undoubtedly Ireland’s greatest stained-glass artist. Internationally the name of Harry Clarke is synonymous with quality craftsmanship and imaginative genius in his stained-glass work. His use of deep rich colors, his delicate depiction of beautiful elongated figures with their finely carved features and deep expressive eyes, is indeed magical to behold. During his short life Harry created over 160 stained glass windows for religious and commercial commissions throughout Ireland and England, and as far a as the USA and Australia. – (www.harryclarke.net)

Harry Clarke was born in Dublin England to Joshua and Brigid Clarke.  In 1877 the Clarke patriarch founded Joshua Clarke and Sons Studios in Dublin; the studio specialized in liturgical arts.  Young Harry spent this youth exposed to a variety of crafts, including stained glass, in his father’s studio.  He studied art in the Metropolitan College of Art and Design and traveled through Europe as a young artist.  During his travels he studied the pattern, color, and technique of medieval stained glass.  He was particularly inspired by the Cathedral of Chartres and returned home determined to redefine the stained-glass craft.  In 1921, after the sudden death of his father, Harry and his brother Walter took over the studio and renamed it Harry Clarke Stained Glass Limited (more commonly known as Harry Clarke Studios.)  Harry had achieved a significant reputation for both his illustration and stained-glass work, and his ambition for the Studios was to expand this reputation beyond Ireland to become an international success.

Harry Clarke died in Coire, Switzerland on January 6, 1931, aged 41, from tuberculosis. He left his company in a healthy condition with a significant number of orders on the books, a good manager in charge, an excellent reputation for the work produced by the Studios in his idiosyncratic style and, very importantly, his name on the business.  Though Clarke’s career was short, he and his brother cemented their legacy in the craftsmanship of stained glass.  Harry Clarke is regarded as a leading figure in the Irish Arts and Crafts Movement  

His glass is distinguished by the finesse of its drawing and an innovative integration of the window leading as part of the overall design.  Clarke's use of heavy lines in his black-and-white book illustrations echoes his glass technique.  His use of rich and vivid colors was achieved through techniques such as diapering (using a repeated pattern); he was especially fond of blues and greens.  Another feature of Harry Clarke stained glass is the minute intricate detail, and plating (using two layers of glass) to add depth and additional detail.  Harry Clarke stained glass accomplishes the effect of jewel studded panes of glass that come alive in a symphony of color and light.

Harry Clark stained glass is found through Europe and Stateside in The Geneva Window, Wolfsonian Museum, Miami, Florida, and Saint Vincent de Paul Church, Bayonne, New Jersey. 

The legacy of his work was carried on by the studio and is signed with the studio name. 

St. Timothy’s Church, Los Angeles, St. Ambrose Church, West Hollywood, the Oratory at St. John’s Seminary, Camarillo, and Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in La Habra, house some of the Studio’s work.    

Reference: Nicola Gordon Bowe, Harry Clarke: The Life and Work

(Dublin: The History Press Ireland, 2012)

Harry Clarke

Detail from The Apparition of the Sacred Heart, Victoria & Albert Museum