Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Harry Clarke

The Eve of St. Agnes
       Who can describe the magic that is Harry Clarke's stained glass images? His most famous piece, The Eve of St. Agnes is an illustration of the Keats poem of the same name. It resides in the Hugh Lane in Dublin–the work is admirable in itself but I am drawn in by Clarke's distinctive style. I originally saw the sketches for this work before the finished product and was enamored with the delicate and detailed drawings and slightly odd looking characters...

The Eve of St. Agnes (detail)

The finished product is essentially a comic book in stained glass, a series of panels that show scenes from the poem. It is enchanting, enthralling and and lovely but also holds a sinister bent, not just from the tale itself but in the renderings of each person. The glass panels, though transformed through the brilliant colours and backlight also carry shadows that hint at some of the strangeness and creepiness of the narrative.
The Masque of the Red Death

Harry Clarke, illustration from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

 I am very much drawn to the incredible detail of his pen work. The stark black and white images carry the same magic that his stained glass work does, yet the closer you look, the more there is to discover. When seen from a distance they are arresting, the images convey a sense of narrative and an intriguing sense of mystery. Many also have an odd disturbing quality that I find equally intriguing, appropriately he illustrated Edgar Allen Poe's stories as well.

Rime of the Ancient Mariner