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Work of the Week | 13 December 2021

CAG.89 Harry Clarke, At Length Burst in the Argent Revelry, c.1923, pencil, watercolour and gouache on paper, 30 x 20.9 cm. Purchased, the Artist, 1924 (Gibson Bequest Fund).

Featured in a new exhibition, this WORK OF THE WEEK is putting us in a celebratory mood!

Dating to 1923, At Length Burst in the Argent Revelry by Harry Clarke (1889-1931) is a scene of opulence derived from “The Eve of St Agnes” (1819), a Romantic poem by John Keats.

“At length burst in the argent revelry,

       With plume, tiara, and all rich array,

       Numerous as shadows haunting faerily

       The brain, new stuff’d, in youth, with triumphs gay

       Of old romance…”

Set within a castle on the wintry Eve of St Agnes (20 January), a host of revellers gather and dance beneath a patterned canopy. Leading the festivities, three figures in the foreground are dressed to perfection; their bodies elegantly elongated in a manner characteristic of the artist.

A watercolour study for his famed The Eve of St Agnes stained-glass window (1924), Clarke cleverly unites this scene through the upward gazes of the background figures: above this – in Soon, up Aloft, the Silver, Snarling Trumpets 'gan to Chide – he places an image of a seven-piece ensemble of musicians led by a flamboyant conductor.

Composed largely in tones of blue, Clarke’s design was translated into stained glass with the assistance of Kathleen Quigly (1888-1981). Once completed, The Eve of St Agnes was described as “a revel in blue.” This scene, however, would ultimately be rendered in purple, pink, and orange tones.

At Length Burst in the Argent Revelry (c.1923) is featured in PHANTOMS & PHANTASIES: Harry Clarke Watercolours (Floor 2) until 14 February.

Tune into The Arts House with Elmarie Mawe on Cork’s 96FM and C103FM every Sunday morning as Conor Tallon chats with assistant curator Michael Waldron about each WORK OF THE WEEK! Listen back to this week's chat here:


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