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The panel was originally made for Thomas Bodkin, Harry’s friend and patron.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.