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Work of the Week | 24 January 2022

CAG.106 Harry Clarke, Aquarius, 1920, pen and ink on paper, 25 x 19 cm. Purchased, the Artist, 1924 (Gibson Bequest Fund).

We’re celebrating the ‘Age of Aquarius’ with this WORK OF THE WEEK!

‘How is your trade, Aquarius,
This frosty night?’
‘Complaints is many and various
And my feet are cold,’ says Aquarius,
‘There’s Venus objects to Dolphin-scales,
And Mars to Crab-spawn found in my pails,
And the pump has frozen to-night,
And the pump has frozen to-night.’

This verse from “Star-Talk” by Robert Graves (1895-1985) is the inspiration for Harry Clarke’s pen and ink work, Aquarius, which has been in the collection since 1924. It is also one of the illustrations the Irish artist completed for a poetry anthology titled The Year’s at the Spring (1920) compiled by Lettice D'Oyly Walters and published by George G. Harrap.

Personifying the astrological sign Aquarius as a water bearer, Clarke clearly delighted in conjuring a figure to embody the form of this constellation of the zodiac. His star-spangled clothing is frosty, floral, and fluid, while water spills from the pails he bears with a carrying pole.

Fun fact: although Aquarius is an air sign of the zodiac (20 January – 18 February), the artist himself was the born under the water sign, Pisces, on 17 March 1889 – St Patrick’s Day – and baptised Henry Patrick Clarke.

There are only three weeks remaining to visit PHANTOMS & PHANTASIES: Harry Clarke Watercolours (Floor 2), which features Aquarius (1920), as it must close on 14 February.

Free entry | Open daily.

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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