Sunday - 21 December 2014

A love of rich colour – two windows on Harry Clarke

22 April 2014Written by Roland Arkell

Irishman Harry Clarke (1889-1931) made his reputation as a book illustrator whose work straddled the passing Art Nouveau and the coming Art Deco movements.

But stained glass, the subject he studied at Dublin Art School, is central to his short career. Two very different examples of his work were offered at Lawrences' sale in Crewkerne earlier this month.

Clarke's love of rich colours (especially deep blues) was seen in a lead-framed sensuous Madonna and Child roundel, measuring just 5.5in (14cm) across, in a style informed by the French Symbolist movement. It is one of Clarke's many religious windows.

In a secular mode was a 9.5 x 4.5in (24 x 11.5cm) rectangle of a lute player in a palette of silver and yellow.

Such things seldom come to market.

Direct Connection

These two panels were consigned to Crewkerne by the same vendor of a complete series of nine sold by Christie's for a premium-inclusive £331,500 in 1997.

The nine Queens panels, based on a poem by the Irish dramatist J M Synge, were made to commission in 1917 for Laurence Waldron, who was Governor of Belvedere College, the Jesuit school that Clarke (and James Joyce) attended.

Close inspection of the Madonna and Child roundel after cataloguing revealed a tiny inscription dated December 1915 reading H Clarke to Laurence Waldron.

This direct connection to Clarke's principal patron only added to its appeal. Estimated at £3000-5000 for the sale on April 10, it attracted intense competition before the hammer fell to an internet bidder at £37,000.

The musician panel, unsigned, sold at £8600 (estimate £2000-3000).

The buyer's premium was 19.5%.

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