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Exhibition: Dreaming in Blue: Harry Clarke Watercolours, until February 14th, 2019

Fig. 1. Design for ‘At Length Burst in the Argent Revelry’, for the Eve of St Agnes window, by Harry Clarke, c.1923, in the Collection of the Crawford Art Gallery.
Fig. 1. Design for ‘At Length Burst in the Argent Revelry’, for the Eve of St Agnes window, by Harry Clarke, c.1923, in the Collection of the Crawford Art Gallery.

Fig. 1. Design for ‘At Length Burst in the Argent Revelry’, for the Eve of St Agnes window, by Harry Clarke, c.1923, in the Collection of the Crawford Art Gallery.

In 1923, Harry Clarke was approached by Harold Jacob (of Jacob’s biscuits fame) to create a stained glass window for his Dublin home.  Of the literary-inspired subjects Clarke proposed, Jacob settled on a pictorial representation of Keat’s influential Romantic narrative poem, set in the Middle Ages, The Eve of St. Agnes. In preparation for the commission, Clarke produced a series of 22 studies in pencil, watercolour and gouache, each illustrating a panel of his proposed design.

This exhibition, at the Crawford Art Gallery, Cork, presents 18 of these preparatory works together in a sequence for the first time in many years.  The show also includes two booklets illustrated by Clarke, a display of his earliest, prize-winning stained glass panels and John Doherty’s 2003 documentary, Harry Clarke: Darkness in Light.  The actress, Fiona Shaw, provides a vivid reading, commissioned for the exhibition, of Keat’s poem, telling of the dreamlike romance of Madeline and her family’s enemy, Porphyro, culminating in their dramatic elopement on the eve of the feast of St Agnes.

Appropriately for an exploration of this romantic theme, the exhibition runs until February 14th, 2019.  For more information, including details of upcoming tours with the exhibition’s curator, Dr Michael Waldron see the Gallery’s website. Clarke’s stained glass window itself is permanently housed in the Hugh Lane Gallery, Dublin.