Harry Clarke Colour and Light

H Clark Newport

It is wet and windy here in County Mayo this weekend. To save ourselves from suffering cabin fever we decided to go and do something that I had meant to do for years. Isn’t it funny how you leave off going to see or do something that is on your own doorstep?

So for the first time, we finally went to St Patrick’s Church, Newport, Co Mayo to see Harry Clarkes (1889-1931) stained glass window called the “The Last Judgement” or as often called “The Three Sisters” as it is in fact made up of three equal sized windows in the east wall above the alter.

The first light depicts a seated Mary surrounded by six saints and cherubs with more saints and angels on their way to heaven depicted in the lover part of the window. In the centre light it shows Christ in judgement of the souls of the dead. The right light depicts St Patrick in green robes surrounded by saints while lower in the panel depicts the unworthy souls cast down to hell.

H Clark faces

The Newport church “The Last Judgement” stained glass window was commissioned by Canon McDonald and was paid for by the priests own life insurance policy of £800.  This was the last work conceived and designed by Harry Clarke and executed by his studio under his close supervision.

H Clark faces male

Apart from numerous church stained glass commissions Harry Clarke was also a well known book illustrator. Clarke produced illustrations for Hans Christian Andersen’s Fairy Tales, Goethe’s Faust, two editions of Edgar Allan Poe’s Tales of Mystery and Imagination and an anthology of poetry, The Year’s at the Spring, and two sets of book illustrations for whiskey distillers Jameson’s of Dublin.

 

Harry Clarke ran foul of the very catholic and conservative values of the new Irish state in 1925 with his depiction of “The Geneva Window.” The Irish Government commissioned Harry Clarke to create a window for the International Labour Court in Geneva. The window depicted scenes from the literature of many of Ireland’s influential writers of the twentieth century, Yeats, Joyce and O’Casey. However Harry Clarke also included depictions of scantily clothed women who oozed eroticism and sexuality. The window was never installed in Geneva and it was locked away in Government Buildings until the late 1980’s. Today it is on permanent exhibition at the Wolfsonian Museum, Miami, USA. What a terrible loss to Ireland.

h clark red

However thank goodness for Canon McDonald in late 1920’s and Newport Church County Mayo for the commissioning and keeping of the magnificent stain glass window depicting all the imaginative genius and superb craftsmanship by Harry Clarke.

harry clark blue

The photographs do not do justice to the wonderful deep rich colours or in showing the delicate figures and faces with deep expressive eyes. I cannot make my mind up, do I like the brilliant jewel like blue colour or the vibrant red… think it might be the blue…

 

H Clark upside down

Point of note… the figure positioned upside down with the unworthy souls cast down to hell it the right light under St Patrick is a self-portrait of Harry Clarke.

 

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