In our gallery of beautiful stained glass, you will find the remarkable and ever popular stained glass windows by Harry Clarke, The Eve of St. Agnes and ‘Mr Gilhooley’ alongside works by Wilhelmina Geddes, Evie Hone, Paul Bony and James Scanlon.
Harry Clarke (1889 – 1931) is one of the most brilliant artists working in stained glass in the 20th century. He is also renowned for his book illustrations which included Fairy Tales by Hans Christian Andersen, Tales of Mystery and Imagination by Edgar Allan Poe, Charles Perrault’s Fairy Tales of Perrault as well as his complex coloured imagery for Goethe’s Faust which brought him his renown as a book illustrator. In the Hugh Lane Gallery you can find two outstanding stained glass works by Clarke, The Eve of St Agnes window and a beautiful panel from The Geneva Window depicting an episode from Liam O’Flaherty’s novel ‘Mr Gilhooley’.
The Eve of St Agnes
The Eve of St Agnes was commissioned in 1923 by Harold Jacob for his father’s house in Ailesbury Road, Dublin. Clarke took his inspiration from John Keats’s poem of the same name. The window depicts fourteen scenes from the poem in two panels, with two decorative semi-circular panels at the top and a frieze below. Clarke achieved the dazzling colour in this window using double-layered glass, which is acid-etched to produce diverse tones. Intricate detail is scratched into the paint layers using a needle. Passages from the poem are inscribed beneath each scene.
The Geneva Window
The Geneva Window was commissioned by the Irish Department of Industry and Commerce in 1925 for the International Labour Office of the League of Nations in Geneva. Clarke chose to illustrate works by Irish authors, but his choice was controversial; two of the authors illustrated – James Joyce and Liam O’Flaherty – had been censored. The Mr Gilhooley panel, in which Nelly dances wearing ‘nothing but a veil’, was subject to particular criticism. The Geneva Window was rejected by the government for fear that the Mr Gilhooley scene would cause ‘grave offence’. Harry Clarke offered to replace the panel with a different subject but died, aged 41, in 1931, without the issue being resolved. Margaret Clarke the artist’s widow eventually had to buy back the work from the State. Hugh Lane Gallery recently acquired the original of the two versions of this panel, the second having been made due to a hairline crack across Nelly’s neck in the first version. Clarke mended the crack with lead and kept it in his private collection.
The gallery also has in its collection nine watercolour studies for The Geneva Window, images of which you can see in our online galleries.
Jessica O’Donnell, ‘A Gorgeous Gallery of Poetic Pictures: Harry Clarke, Harold Jacob and John Keats’s The Eve of St Agnes’ in Harry Clarke and Artistic Visions of the New Irish State, eds. A. Griffith, M. Helmers and R. Kennedy (Irish Academic Press, 2019).
Jessica O’Donnell, Harry Clarke: The Eve of St Agnes (Hugh Lane Gallery, 2012)
Watch our Coffee Conversation on The Eve of St Agnes by Harry Clarke with Jessica O’Donnell.