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DREAMING IN BLUE: Harry Clarke Watercolours

Credit: Harry Clarke, At Length Burst in the Argent Revelry (Design for the Eve of St Agnes window), c.1923, Collection Crawford Art Gallery

14 December 2018 – 17 February 2019

In 1923, Ireland’s ‘strangest genius’ Harry Clarke (1889-1931) accepted a private commission for a stained glass window. For this, he suggested a number of subjects from which his client, Harold Jacob of Jacob’s Biscuits, selected “The Eve of St Agnes” by John Keats (1795-1821). 

Inspired by the poet’s evocative poem, Clarke wrote to Jacob: ‘I shall set to work on The Eve of St Agnes and submit my first coloured draft for discussion.’ Creating a series of ethereal studies in pencil, watercolour, and gouache, the artist carefully thought out his design before committing his vision to glass. This exhibition presents eighteen of these delicate preparatory works together in sequence for the first time in many years. 

Clarke’s source, “The Eve of St Agnes” (1819), follows the dreamlike romance of Madeline and Porphyro on the moonlit eve of the feast of St Agnes (20 January). Accompanying his works is a vivid interpretation of this long narrative poem by actor Fiona Shaw, specially commissioned for the exhibition. 

Visitors also have the opportunity to consider Clarke’s watercolours in the context of other commissioned work from the period. Included in this display are two small booklets – The History of a Great House (1924) and The Elixir of Life (1925) – illustrated by Clarke for the Dublin-based distillers, John Jameson & Son (Courtesy of Irish Distillers Pernod Ricard). 

Enter the imagination of one of Ireland’s favourite artists!

Curated by Dr Michael Waldron

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T12 TNE6
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