Harry Clarke – The Year’s at the Spring 02 – 1920
Harry Clarke – The Year’s at the Spring 01 – 1920
Henry Patrick (Harry) Clarke was born 17 March 1889, younger son and third child of Joshua Clarke and Brigid Clarke (née MacGonigal). Church decorator Joshua Clarke moved to Dublin from Leeds in 1877 and started a decorating business Joshua Clarke & Sons, which later incorporated a stained glass division. Through his work with his father, Clarke was exposed to many schools of art but Art Nouveau in particular.
Clarke was educated at the Model School in Marlborough Street, Dublin and Belvedere College, which he left in 1905. He was devastated by the death of his mother in 1903, when he was only 14 years old.  Clarke was then apprenticed into his father’s studio, and attended evening classes in the Metropolitan College of Art and Design. His The Consecration of St Mel, Bishop of Longford, by St Patrick won the gold medal for stained glass work in the 1910 Board of Education National Competition.
At the art school in Dublin, Clarke met fellow artist and teacher Margaret Crilley. They married on 31 October 1914 and moved into a flat at 33 North Frederick Street. They had three children, Michael, David and Ann.
Clarke moved to London to seek work as a book illustrator. Picked up by London publisher Harrap, he started with two commissions which were never completed: Samuel Taylor Coleridge‘s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (much of his work on which was destroyed during the 1916 Easter Rising) and an illustrated edition of Alexander Pope‘s The Rape of the Lock.
Difficulties with these projects made Fairy Tales by Hans Christian Andersen his first printed work, in 1916. It included 16 colour plates and more than 24 halftone illustrations. This was followed by an illustrations for an edition of Edgar Allan Poe‘s Tales of Mystery and Imagination: the first version of that title was restricted to halftone illustrations, while a second with eight colour plates and more than 24 halftone images was published in 1923. This 1923 edition made his reputation as a book illustrator, during the golden age of gift-book illustration in the first quarter of the twentieth century. Clarke’s work can be compared to that of Aubrey Beardsley, Kay Nielsen, and Edmund Dulac.
Clarke prefigured much of the psychedelic art that was so prevalent when I was a teenager; I’ve had an abiding love for it (the art, not the psychedelica) ever since. The following illustrations are from a 1920 compilation of poetry, “The Year’s At The Spring”.