Strange genius... in Palmy
'He might have incarnated from the dark side of the moon', wrote the Irish literary figure George Russell in 1929, 'Harry Clarke is one of the strangest geniuses of his time.' A recent visit to Palmerston North provided vivid evidence of Russell's claim...
Harry Clarke Christ the King window (detail) c.1925. Photo: Ken Hall
It feels somewhat unexpected to discover some of that city's greatest art treasures at the Catholic Cathedral of the Holy Spirit (also known as St Patrick's) in Broadway Avenue. Opened in 1925, the cathedral contains a significant collection of stained glass windows by Harry Clarke (1889-1931), who is recognised as Ireland's greatest stained glass designer and book illustrator.
Harry Clarke Christ the King window c.1925. Photo: Ken Hall
Harry Clarke Mary, Queen of Heaven window (detail) c.1925. Photo: Ken Hall
Clarke was a leading figure in the Irish Arts and Crafts movement. The links between the two strands of his career are interestingly clear. Gothic overtones seemed to infuse all of his work: there is no very great leap from these windows to the illustrations he completed for Fairy Tales by Hans Christian Andersen (1916), or Tales of Mystery and Imagination by Edgar Allan Poe (1919, 1923). The windows are quite brilliant, worth visiting, and decidedly creepy.
Harry Clarke The meeting of Joachim and Anna c.1925. Photo: Ken Hall
Harry Clarke Illustration for Ligeia, Edgar Allan Poe, Tales of Mystery and Imagination, 1919.