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Margaret Clarke RHA (1 August 1884 – 31 October 1961) (née Crilley) was an Irish portrait painter.[1]

Margaret Clarke
Margaret Crilley

1 August 1884
Died31 October 1961(1961-10-31) (aged 77)
Resting placeRedford Cemetery, Greystones, County Wicklow
Alma materDublin Metropolitan School of Art
Known forportrait painting
Spouse(s)Harry Clarke


Margaret Crilley was born in Newry, County Down on 1 August 1884, one of six children of Patrick Crilley.[2] Her date of birth is often given as 29 July 1888, though local records do not support this.[3] Having initially trained at Newry technical school with her sister Mary intending to become a teacher,[3] in 1905 Margaret won a scholarship to attend the Dublin Metropolitan School of Art.[4] There she studied under William Orpen, who regarded her as one of his most promising students.[3] She completed her studies in 1911 attaining an Art Teacher's Certificate, and began working as Orpen's assistant.[2]

In 1914, Margaret married her fellow student Harry Clarke, much to the surprise of their family and acquaintances.[5] The couple moved into a flat at 33 North Frederick Street. They had three children, Michael, David and Ann.[1] Harry's brother, Walter married Margaret's sister Mary in 1915.[6] Clarke became the director of the Harry Clarke Stained Glass Studios following the death of her husband in 1931.[4] Clarke died in Dublin 31 October 1961, and is buried in the Redford cemetery, Greystones, Co. Wicklow.[1] She is commemorated with a blue plaque at her birthplace in Newry.[7]

Artistic workEdit

Irish Free State Butter, Eggs and Bacon for our Breakfasts

Clarke first exhibited with the Royal Hibernian Academy in 1913,[3] and would go on to exhibit over 60 artworks in the forty years until 1953, the majority being portraits.[8] Amongst the portrait commissions Clarke received were ones for Dermod O'Brien, President Éamon de Valera, Archbishop McQuaid, and Lennox Robinson.[8][9] Clarke spent a great deal of time on the Aran Islands with fellow artist Seán Keating and her husband,[9] from which she produced a number of landscapes and smaller studies.[9]

A critic noted in 1939 that Clarke produced "remarkable drawings in which individuality is caught in a few swift economical lines."[4] Over her lifetime Clarke won many awards including the Tailteann gold, silver and bronze medals in 1924, and another Tailteann bronze in both 1928 and 1932.[9] She was elected an Associate of the Royal Hibernian Academy (ARHA) in 1926, and a full RHA in 1927.[2] Upon the founding of the Irish Exhibition of Living Art in 1943, Clarke was appointed a member of the executive committee.[9] Her work can be found in the collections of the National Gallery of Ireland, The Hugh Lane, the Crawford Art Gallery, the Ulster Museum, Limerick City Gallery of Art, the National Self Portrait Collection,[9] and the Irish College in Rome.[1]


The exhibition at National Gallery of Ireland in 2017 reevaluated Margaret Clarke's great artistic reputation. Her sketches, oil painting and other works reveal a remarkable balancing of family life with the management of the stained glass studios.


  1. ^ a b c d Clarke, Frances (2009). "Clarke (Crilley), Margaret". In McGuire, James; Quinn, James (eds.). Dictionary of Irish Biography. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  2. ^ a b c Pyle, Hilary. "Margaret Clarke RHA" (PDF). Hidden Gems and Forgotten People. Retrieved 5 May 2015.
  3. ^ a b c d Pyle, Hilary (2007). "Darling Margaret: A Look at Orphen's Favourite Pupil" (PDF). Irish Arts Review. Spring. Archived from the original (PDF) on 18 May 2015. Retrieved 5 May 2015.
  4. ^ Costigan, Lucy. "Harry Clarke - Biography". Harry Clarke. Retrieved 5 May 2015.
  5. ^ Costigan, Lucy; Cullen, Michael (2010). Strangest Genius: The Stained Glass of Harry Clarke. Dublin: The History Press Ireland. p. 16. ISBN 9781845889715.
  6. ^ "Margaret Clarke blue plaque in Newry". Blue Plaque Places. Retrieved 5 May 2015.
  7. ^ a b Devlin, Patrick. "Margaret Clarke (1888 - 1961): Artist". The Dictionary of Ulster Biography. Retrieved 5 May 2015.
  8. ^ a b c d e f "Margaret Clarke RHA (1888-1961)". Encyclopedia of Visual Artists in Ireland. Visual Arts Cork. Retrieved 5 May 2015.

External linksEdit