Harry Clarke at the NGI

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The National Gallery of Ireland fully opened earlier this year, following renovations that have taken 4 years to complete. During this period most of the Gallery’s collection has been locked away in storage, so, although I didn’t have much time left before the gallery closed for the day after visiting the Vermeer and the Masters of Genre Paintingand Käthe Kollwitz exhibitions and listening to the musicians in the Performance Art event, I found some time to wander round the permanent collection.

The Gallery has a small collection of Irish stained glass so I made my way to the room where its on display and was immediately drawn to two stunning pieces, one large and one small, by Harry Clarke, a leading exponent of the Celtic Revival and of the Irish Arts and Crafts movement at the beginning of the 20th century. I’m a big fan of his work which I’ve seen at the hUgh Lane Gallery in Dublin and the Honan Chapel in Cork

The larger of the two works is The Mother of Sorrows

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The  Gallery website tells us that this window

was made as a Memorial to Sister Superior of Saint Wilfrid, Principal of Dowanhill Training College, Glasgow. Following the success of Harry’s window, The Coronation of the Blessed Virgin, for the convent chapel at Dowanhill in Glasgow in 1922, the superior, Sister Wilfrid, ordered a further war memorial window to commemorate the victims of the First World War. The Mother of Sorrows was commissioned by Sister Wilfrid in 1926, based on the pieta (Bowe, in Christie’s website, Lot 86, The Irish Sale, May 17th 2002).
Due to Sister Wilfrid’s sudden death the window was erected in Glasgow on 24 January 1927 and became her memorial.

It was purchased by the NGI in 2002

The smaller piece, The Song of the Mad Prince, based on a poem by Walter de la Mare is particularly beautiful.

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The song of the mad prince is an exquisite panel housed in a James Hicks cabinet. A small light at the back of the cabinet illuminates the panel. The panel is made up of two sheets of flashed glass; flashed blue glass is on top and flashed ruby glass is underneath.
The panel was originally made for Thomas Bodkin, Harry’s friend and patron.

Clarke’s work certainly is exquisite. Very much influenced by the Art Nouveau, Symbolist and Arts and Crafts movement with finely drawn figures, minutely detailed images and luminous colours. These photos, snapped with a mobile phone, really can’t do them justice; they need to be seen “in the flesh” to be really appreciated.

‘The loveliest thing ever made by an Irishman’

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She came towards him dancing, moving the folds of the veil so that they unfolded slowly as she danced

One of the highlights of the Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin is thje collection of modern stained glass displayed in a small, darkened room close to the entry of the Gallery. My favourite of these works is the the Art Nouveau / Arts and crafts style stained glass window by the Irish artist Harry Clarke, inspired by the poem The Eve of St Agnes  by John Keats, completed in 1924. Last year it was joined by an exquisite small panel, only a few inches across, purchased from the Fine Art Society in London. It was originally intended to be part of Clarke’s Geneva Window, described by Clarke’s friend and patron Thomas Bodkin as ‘the loveliest thing ever made by an Irishman’.

It’s a beautiful little work, typical of Clarke’s work – and like The Eve of St Agnes it’s incredibly detailed and beautifully composed with rich, deep and vibrant colour.

The panel depicts a scene from Liam O’Flaherty’s novel Mr Gilhooley, showing a partially nude dancer, Nelly, Gilhooley’s mistress, covered only by a transparent veil. It was one of a series of eight panels inspired by the literature of 20th Century Irish authors including Yeats, Shaw and O’Casey. The Hugh Lane’s pane  was Clarke’s original attempt to create the scene, but during its final firing, it developed a hairline crack. Clarke later remade this section. He had to replace it in the final work and in doing so changed the colour scheme from pink to blue.The Geneva Window was commissioned by the Irish government for the League of Nations building in Geneva in late 1920s but was deemed to be unsuitable by the then president of the executive council of the Irish Free State ,WT Cosgrave. In 1988 Clarke’s sons, David and Michael, sold it to a wealthy American art collector, Mitchell Wolfson, and today it’s displayed in his museum in Miami Beach, Florida.More detailed information and images of the Geneva Window can be found here and here.

The Crawford Gallery Cork

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The Crawford Gallery is Cork’s public art Gallery. The main part of the building, built in 1724, was originally the Cork Customs House. Emmet Place, where it’s located, today is a wide street but used to be a harbour off the north channel of the River Lee. The gallery was extended in  2000, substantially increasing the exhibition space.

I visited it twice during my short stay in Cork – in the daytime and then during Thursday evening when it’s open until 8 o’clock.

They have a decent collection of paintings but not on the scale of the public galleries in Manchester, Liverpool and Leeds.

Outside  I spotted this Banksy style stencil on the wall outside.

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Inside, on the main staircase there was an attractive, contemporary stained glass work in the window.

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Unfortunately I didn’t make a note of the artist’s name.

At the top of the stairs there was a sculpture by the Northern Irish artist, F. E McWilliam depicting a woman blown over by an explosion during “the Troubles”

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Woman in Bomb Blast (1974) by F.E. McWilliam,

I normally associate McWilliam with abstract works, but this is very realistic. A little research revealed that this work

is the last and largest sculpture from a series called Women of Belfast which, he explained, ‘was concerned with violence, with one particular aspect, bomb-blast – the woman as victim of man’s stupidity’. Although they can be read as a metaphor for women affected by violence, these sculptures were McWilliam’s response to the Provisional IRA bombing of the Abercorn Restaurant in the centre of Belfast on 4 March 1972. The bomb exploded in the restaurant which was packed with Saturday afternoon shoppers, killing two women and injuring some 70 other people.

The Gallery’s collection spans the centuries from the 16th Century onwards. I particularly liked the exhibition of works by Irish artists from the AlB Art Collection which was donated to the Irish State in February 2012 and will become part of the Crawford Art Gallery’s permanent collection. These were some of my favourites

DSC02394 The cockle pickers (1890) by Joseph Malachy Kavangh

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Corpus Christi Procession (1880) by Aloysius O’Kelly

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A Race in Hy Brazil (1937) by Jack B. Yeats

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Blue Still Life With Knife (1971) by William Scott

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A Place With Stones (1979) by Patrick Collins

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Habiba (1892) by John Lavery

The gallery also has a collection of watercolours, ink drawings and stained glass by Harry Clarke whose marvellous stained glass windows I saw in the Honan Chapel a mile or so away.

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The Gallery’s website tells us

Clarke may be described as Ireland’s major Symbolist artist, whose synthesis of literary, musical, poetic and imagined visual images draws on a wide range of eclectic, sometimes obscure sources to produce an entirely original and idiosyncratic vision. This is as firmly rooted in the Yeatsian Celtic Revival and National Romanticism of late 19th/early 20th century Ireland as in European Symbolism, Decadence, and Art Nouveau of the same period, with the unusual extra dimension of consummate technical skill in stained glass.

The Gallery’s collection included a large number of cartoons – preparatory drawings on paper – for his masterpiece The Eve of St Agnes which is displayed at the Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin

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and illustrations from Tales of Mystery and Imagination by Edgar Allan Poe

The Fall of The House of Usher

Most of the earlier works on show and the temporary exhibitions didn’t particularly interest me, each to his own, and I didn’t intend to look around the large room full of casts of Classical Graeco-Roman sculpture. But on my second visit on my way out I popped into the sculpture gallery which is to one side of the entrance. I’m glad I did because tucked away on the wall in the corner was a large painting by Hughie O’Donoghue.

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Raft (2007) by Hughie O’Donoghue

The Honan Chapel

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The Honan Chapel stands just outside the official boundary of the UCC campus, but is effectively, part of the site. So I couldn’t help but notice it. I almost passed it by, but as I wasn’t in a particular hurry to get back to the train station I decided I might as well take a closer look. I’m glad I did. It was a little gem.

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It was only built in the early 20th Century,being consecrated on 5 November 1916. At first glance I could see it was a neo-Romanesque building, this doorway being very typical of the style

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but a closer look revealed Celtic features, such as these capitals

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The chapel is, in fact, a product of the Irish Arts and Crafts movement and is Hiberno-Romanesque, reflecting the style of early Christian churches in Ireland. It’s a product of the Celtic Twilight of Irish artists influenced by Art Nouveau, Arts and Crafts and the Celtic traditions of their native land.

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Inside there is a magnificent mosaic floor depicting the “River of Life”, (the colours haven’t come out on my photos, unfortunately)

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All the “furniture and fittings” were beautifully crafted and full of detail

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But I was particularly taken by the superb stained glass. There are nineteen windows in the Honan Chapel. Eight of the windows were designed by An Túr Gloine (The Tower of Glass), the stained glass studio of the Irish artist Sarah Purser. The other eleven were designed by Harry Clarke, the artist responsible for the Eve of St Agnes window that’s displayed in the Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin  The Honan Chapel was his first major commission.

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Clarke’s work is exquisite. Very much influenced by the Art Nouveau, Symbolist and Arts and Crafts movement with finely drawn figures, minutely detailed images and luminous colours. Thee photos really can’t do them justice;they need to be seen “in the flesh” to be really appreciated.

The Eve of St Agnes – Artistry in glass

During my short stay in Dublin I visited the Hugh Lane Gallery in Parnell Square. Originally called The Municipal Gallery of Modern Art, it houses an excellent collection of modern and contemporary art.

One of the exhibits that really took my eye was the stained glass window by the Irish artist Harry Clarke inspired by the poem The Eve of St Agnes  by John Keats. It was completed in 1924 and it’s style and design is very much influenced by Art Nouveau and the Arts and Crafts Movement.It was created using double-layered glass, repeatedly acid-etched, with minute detail scratched into the paint layers using a needle.

The image above really does not do this marvellous work of art justice – it really needs to be seen “in the flesh”. It’s incredibly detailed and beautifully composed and the colours are deep, rich and vibrant. It’s a really amazing work.