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Work of the Week | 1 January 2024

CAG.3300 Harry Clarke, The Colloquy of Monos and Una, 1923, pencil, ink, and watercolour on paper, 40 x 29.5 cm. Purchased, 2023.


The Colloquy of Monos and Una (1923) is the first work by Harry Clarke to enter the Collection in almost a century.

This exquisite illustration for Edgar Allan Poe’s Tales of Mystery and Imagination shows Art Deco and Vienna Secessionist influences, while also referencing Gothic religious sculpture that Clarke likely encountered in Chartres, France. The artist’s diary from March 1914 attests to his reading of Poe’s stories and his interest in illustrating them.

The composition itself is conceived of as a colloquy – or dialogue – between lovers reunited after death as they hover above the Earth. Poignantly, when Poe was writing the story upon which this illustration is based, his wife Virginia Poe (1822-1847) contracted tuberculosis, the disease that would claim both her life and ultimately, on 6 January 1931, that of Clarke too.

‘This illustration,’ as David Caron has observed, ‘comes from the expanded edition’ of Tales of Mystery and Imagination (1923), that included ‘eight colour plates for which Clarke was paid £100 by Harrap.’

Three of these eight colour illustrations are now in the Collection of Crawford Art Gallery, with Marie Rogêt and The Fall of the House of Usher having been both purchased in 1924.

Fun Fact: The Colloquy of Monos and Una was previously owned by the barrister Albert Ernest Wood (1873-1941) and his descendants. Coincidentally, Wood was to introduce Clarke’s friend and fellow artist, Seán Keating, to Seán Moylan (1889-1957), which resulted in the creation of the iconic painting, Men of the South (1921-22), also acquired by Crawford Art Gallery in 1924.

The Colloquy of Monos and Una (1923) is featured in HARRY CLARKE: Bad Romance until 18 February.

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