Images from the business archive of Harry Clarke Stained Glass Ltd
The Clarke Stained Glass Studios were prolific producers of stained glass windows for Irish and international clients over 80 years. Our collection contains stained glass designs, architects' blueprints and plans, photographs, documentation about sales and orders, correspondence, financial records, and staffing records related to stained glass work executed by the Clarke Studios from 1893 to 1973.
Joshua and Bridget Clarke’s eldest children, Walter and Harry, were born in 1888 and 1889. Harry was born on St Patrick's Day, March 17th 1889. Bridget Clarke died in 1903, when Harry was only 14. By then Harry had already shown an aptitude for drawing, and it is likely that he had done some work for his father’s stained glass firm even before leaving school. The following year he worked in the offices of the architect Thomas McNamara, and in 1905 he was attending night classes at the Metropolitan School of Art in Dublin. There are a number of drawings by J. Clarke & Sons from the period between 1903 and 1920, which may have been designed by Harry Clarke despite lacking his signature, as they are particularly fine.
This drawing depicts a scene from the life of St Patrick, in which the two daughters of the King of Connaught converted to Christianity after meeting the saint. They were baptised, and died after receiving the Eucharist. The scene at the bottom of the drawing depicts the two maidens lying on their biers, mourned by the King and his noblemen. The drawing uses intricate interlace and Celtic revival motifs as framing devices, which were particularly popular during the early part of the 20th century in Ireland.
Detail of the scene at the bottom of the design showing the two dead maidens. There are beautifully observed details in this section, from the painstakingly depicted footwear of the King and the noblemen, to the way the wind is blowing on the candles' flames, which again indicate that a very skilled artist, perhaps the young Harry Clarke, carried out the design.
Colour design for memorial window with tracery for the Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and St Simon Stock in South Kensington, London.
A photograph of the final design for this window bears the following inscription:
"This window has been erected by the officers, non-commissioned officers and men of the 2nd B[attalio]N Irish Guards in loving and grateful memory of Major the Rev. S. S. Knapp O.D.C. O.S.O. M.C., for two years of war their devoted chaplain who died of woundes received at Boesinghe Flanders on Aug. 1st 1917. May he rest in peace. A perpetual monthly Mass has also been founded for the souls of Irish Guardsmen who fell during the war."
The church in South Kensington, a Gothic revival building designed by the English architect and designer Augustus Welby Pugin, was destroyed by German incendiary bombs on 20 February, 1944.
Detail of the colour design for the memorial window in South Kensington. The careful attention to detail makes this scene particularly poignant. For instance, the details of the soldier's uniforms have been painstakingly rendered, and it is striking that underneath the Reverend's chasuble one can see the cuffs and collar of his uniform's jacket. He is also wearing soldier's boots. The smoke and flames of the burning buildings in the background, so close to the head of the horse, lend drama to the scene. This was an important commission carried out in 1918, after Harry Clarke had already completed the Honan Chapel windows in Cork, and it is very likely that he had a hand in the design.
This pencil drawing is attributed to Philip Deegan, one of Harry Clarke's assistants. During the years between 1921 and 1931 the Studios were extremely busy, and used several highly skilled assistants to carry out the commissions in which they were involved. It is clear from the order books and correspondence that the commission for Lady Dillon in Skryne Church was handled by Harry Clarke. However, this formal presentation drawing was completed by Deegan, rather than by Clarke himself. Nevertheless, Christ's elongated figure with the long, tapering fingers and the jewel-like decoration of the medallions on the sides are particularly reminiscent of Clarke's distinctive style.
This is a colour scheme for the window of the Ascension of Christ in Skryne Church. Colour schemes were created to give an indication of how the blocks of colour would appear in the stained glass windows. However, the Studios were always at pains to indicate to their clients that these colour sketches could never convey the final effect of the actual stained glass in the church.
Detail of the colour scheme for the Ascension of Christ. This medallion to the left of the central figure shows one of Christ's miracles: the Resurrection of Lazarus. Colour schemes are always exciting because paint is handled very freely in them. The narrative is conveyed through very few but carefully placed brushstrokes: the figure of Christ is recognisable through the cross-like red lines on his nimbus, and we know the figure standing to his right is Lazarus because of the very sketchy touches of white gouache and grey watercolour of the mummified corpse that Christ was raising from the dead.
Edmund Arrowsmith was a Jesuit priest, arrested and sentenced to death in England during the 17th-century persecution of Catholics. He was hung, drawn and quartered at Lancaster in 1628, and he was beatified in 1629. His hand had been preserved by the Arrowsmith family as a relic, which now rests at his church in Ashton-in-Makersfield, hence the very prominent drawing of a hand at the centre of this design.
The firm worked extensively outside Ireland, and this fact is reflected in the material in the Archive, which sometimes includes photographs of Irish missionaries in African countries, sent to the firm by their clients. The designs also reflected the culture of the commissioning church, as can be seen in the next two drawings for stained glass windows.
The materials in the Clarke Collection often show the process of how an artwork evolves from the pencil sketches to the final window. The process starts with a pencil sketch, which then becomes a much more finished pencil drawing. Then there is usually a colour scheme, which shows how the blocks of coloured glass will appear on the window. Finally, a very detailed colour design in pencil, pen, ink, watercolour and gouache may be sent to the client. This pencil drawing shows the central section of a five-light stained glass window of Jesuit saints flanking the Virgin Mary, for the chapel of Belvedere College in North Dublin, the Jesuit school that Harry Clarke attended as a child.
Colour design for Belvedere College windows, offering more clarity about the saints depicted in the window: the two Jesuit saints, St Stanislaus Kotska on the left and St Aloysius Gonzaga on the right are holding a band of blue cloth that unites the three panels, with the Virgin Mary and the Christ Child in the centre. The profuse decorative elements that cover every surface of the design reference Harry Clarke's highly ornamental style. However, the actual colours bear little resemblance to the final window.
Imaging: Joanne Carroll, Digital Resources and Imaging Services.
Curation and text: Marta Bustillo, Digital Resources and Imaging Services.
Exhibition framework and technical assistance: Greg Sheaf, Digital Systems and Services.