Harry Clarke

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Harry Clarke (March 17, 1889–1931) was an Irish stained glass artist and book illustrator. Born in Dublin, he was a leading figure in the Irish Arts and Crafts Movement.



The son of a craftsman, Joshua Clarke, Clarke the younger was exposed to art (and in particular Art Nouveau) at an early age. He went to school in Belvedere College in Dublin. By his late teens, he was studying stained glass at the Dublin Art School. While there his The Consecration of St. Mel, Bishop of Longford, by St. Patrick won the gold medal for stained glass work in the 1910 Board of Education National Competition.

Completing his education in his main field, Clarke travelled to London, where he sought employment as a book illustrator. Picked up by London publisher Harrap, he started with two commissions which were never completed: Samuel Taylor Coleridge's The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (his work on which was destroyed during the 1916 Easter Rising) and an illustrated edition of Alexander Pope's The Rape of the Lock.

Difficulties with these projects made Hans Christian Andersen's Fairy Tales by Hans Christian Andersen his first printed work, however, in 1916—a title that included 16 colour plates and more than 24 monotone illustrations. This was closely followed by an illustrations for an edition of Edgar Allan Poe's Tales of Mystery and Imagination: the first version of that title was restricted to monotone illustrations, while a second iteration with 8 colour plates and more than 24 monotone images was published in 1923.

The latter of these made his reputation as a book illustrator (this was during the golden age of gift-book illustration in the first quarter of the twentieth century: Clarke's work can be compared to that of Aubrey Beardsley, Kay Nielsen, and Edmund Dulac). It was followed by editions of The Years at the Spring, containing 12 colour plates and more than 14 monotone images; (Lettice D'O. Walters, ed., 1920), Charles Perrault's Fairy Tales of Perrault, and Goethe's Faust, containing 8 colour plates and more than 70 monotone and duotone images (New York: Hartsdale House,1925). The last of these is perhaps his most famous work, and prefigures the disturbing imagery of 1960s psychedelia.

Two of his most sought-after titles include promotional booklets for Jameson Irish Whiskey: A History of a Great House (1924, and subsequent reprints) and Elixir of Life (1925), which was written by Geofrey Warren.

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