Henry Patrick Clarke RHA (17 March 1889 – 6 January 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.

Harry Clarke
Henry Patrick Clarke

17 March 1889
Died6 January 1931(1931-01-06) (aged 41)
Chur, Grisons, Switzerland
Resting placeChur (disinterred in 1946 and reburied in an unknown communal grave)
Alma materDublin Metropolitan School of Art
Known forstained glass and book illustration
MovementArts and Crafts
SpouseMargaret Clarke

His work was influenced by both the Art Nouveau and Art Deco movements. His stained glass was particularly informed by the French Symbolist movement.

Early life


Henry Patrick Clarke was born 17 March 1889, younger son and third child of Joshua Clarke and Brigid (née MacGonigal) Clarke.[1] Joshua Clarke was a church decorator who moved to Dublin from Leeds in 1877 and started a decorating business, Joshua Clarke & Sons, which later incorporated a stained glass division. Through his work with his father, Clarke was exposed to many schools of art but Art Nouveau in particular.[citation needed]

Clarke was educated at the Model School in Marlborough Street, Dublin and Belvedere College, which he left in 1905. He was devastated by the death of his mother in 1903, when he was only 14 years old.[2][3] Clarke was then apprenticed into his father's studio, and attended evening classes in the Metropolitan College of Art and Design. 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.[1] He won the Gold Medal for stained glass at the 1911, 1912, and 1913 South Kensington National Competitions. He also exhibited at the 1912 International Art Congress in Dresden, Germany, and the 1914 Exposition des Arts Décoratifs de G. Bretagne et d'Irlande at the Louvre in Paris.[4]

At the art school in Dublin, Clarke met fellow artist and teacher, Margaret Crilley.[1] They married on 31 October 1914 and moved into a flat at 33 North Frederick Street. In subsequent years the Clarkes lived in various locations in Dublin, including a semi-detached house in Cabra in which Margaret Clarke painted her husband at work. The Clarkes had three children, Michael, David, and Ann.[1]


Illustration for The year's at the spring; an anthology of recent poetry (1920)

Book illustration


Clarke briefly moved to London to seek work as a book illustrator. Picked up by London publisher Harrap,[3] he started with two commissions which were never completed: Samuel Taylor Coleridge's The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (much of his work on which was destroyed during the 1916 Easter Rising) and an illustrated edition of Alexander Pope's The Rape of the Lock.[5]

Clarke was commissioned by Committee of the Irish National War Memorial[6] in 1919 to illustrate the Ireland's Memorial Records 1914-1918, a roll of honour for the 49,435 Irish who died during World War I. Illustrations for the 8 volumes were completed in 1922 and published in 1923, and a set is on display in the Irish National War Memorial Gardens. 100 copies of the book were distributed to cathedrals and libraries across Ireland and to other Allied countries. Each page features a large four-sided border of black and white illustrations by Clarke.[7]

Difficulties with these projects made Fairy Tales by Hans Christian Andersen his first printed work, in 1916. It included 16 colour plates and more than 24 halftone illustrations. This was followed by illustrations for an edition of Edgar Allan Poe's Tales of Mystery and Imagination: the first version of that title was restricted to halftone illustrations, while a second with eight colour plates and more than 24 halftone images was published in 1923.[5]

This 1923 edition made his reputation as a book illustrator, during the golden age of gift-book illustration in the first quarter of the twentieth century. It was followed by editions of The Years at the Spring, with 12 colour plates and more than 14 monotone images; (Lettice D'Oyly Walters, ed., 1920), Charles Perrault's Fairy Tales of Perrault, and Goethe's Faust, with eight colour plates and more than 70 halftone and duotone images (New York: Hartsdale House, 1925). The last of these is his most famous work, prefiguring the imagery of 1960s psychedelia.[5] Two of his most sought-after titles are 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. His final book, Selected Poems of Algernon Charles Swinburne, was published in 1928.[1]

Stained glass

Geneva Window, 1930

Clarke produced more than 130 windows, he and his brother Walter having taken over his father's studio after his death in 1921.[1] His glass is distinguished by the finesse of its drawing and his use of rich colours, and an innovative integration of the window leading as part of the overall design, originally inspired by an early visit to see the stained glass of the Cathedral of Chartres. He was especially fond of deep blues. Clarke's use of heavy lines in his black-and-white book illustrations echoes his glass techniques.[5]

Clarke's stained glass work includes many religious windows, but also much secular stained glass. Highlights of the former include the windows of the Honan Chapel in University College Cork; of the latter, a window illustrating John Keats' The Eve of St. Agnes (now in the Hugh Lane Municipal Gallery in Dublin) and the Geneva Window, created for the Centre William Rappard in Geneva, Switzerland (now in the Wolfsonian Museum, Miami, Florida, US).[5] Perhaps his most seen works were the windows he made for Bewley's Café on Dublin's Grafton Street,[1] which was subject to court proceedings in 2022 in a dispute between landlord and tenant over ownership, as RGRE v Bewley's.[8]

Later years and death

Commemorative plaque for Clarke at the Hof cemetery in Chur.

Both Harry and his brother Walter were plagued with ill health, in particular problems with their lungs.[5] Clarke was diagnosed with tuberculosis in 1929, and went to a sanatorium in Davos, Switzerland.[1] Fearing that he would die abroad, he began his journey back to Dublin in 1931, but died on 6 January 1931 in Chur where he was buried. A headstone was erected; but local law required that the family pledge to maintain the grave 15 years after the death. This was not explained to the Clarke family and Harry Clarke's remains were disinterred in 1946 and reburied in a communal grave.[1][9]



In 2019 a bridge in Cabra, Dublin, was renamed "Harry Clarke Bridge" in his honour.[10]


Stained glass windows






As illustrator


See also



  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Andrews, Helen; White, Lawrence William (2009). "Clarke, Harry (Henry Patrick)". In McGuire, James; Quinn, James (eds.). Dictionary of Irish Biography. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  2. ^ The Irish genius behind the world's most iconic stained glass windows, Irish Central, 5 June 2016.
  3. ^ a b "About Harry Clarke (1889-1931)". The Hugh Lane Gallery. Retrieved 10 May 2015.
  4. ^ Bowe, Nicola Gordon (1985). "The Arts and Crafts Society of Ireland (1894-1925) with particular reference to Harry Clarke". The Journal of the Decorative Arts Society 1850 - the Present (9): 29–40. ISSN 0260-9568. JSTOR 41809143.
  5. ^ a b c d e f Costigan, Lucy; Cullen, Michael (2010). Strangest Genius: The Stained Glass of Harry Clarke. Dublin: The History Press Ireland. ISBN 9781845889715.
  6. ^ "Ireland's memorial records 1914-1918: being the names of Irishmen who fell in the Great European War, 1914-1918. Volume five. Ker to M'Gil". Digital Collections: The Library of Trinity College Dublin. Retrieved 2 February 2022.
  7. ^ Helmers, Marguerite (12 December 2015). "Harry Clarke's first World War". The Irish Times. Retrieved 2 February 2022.
  8. ^ "Judgment on Bewley's Harry Clarke windows is delayed". Business Post.
  9. ^ Nicola Gordon Bowe. 1994. The Life and Work of Harry Clarke (Irish Academic Press)
  10. ^ Burns, Sarah (27 April 2019). "Dublin bridge renamed after stained-glass artist Harry Clarke". The Irish Times.

Further reading