Saturday, February 17, 2007

Harry Clarke and the Geneva Window

In 1926 Harry Clarke was known throughout the world as both a stained glass designer and a book illustrator. No better choice then when the Irish Ministry of Industry and Commerce were looking for someone to design and produce a stained glass window to represent Ireland at the League of Nations in Geneva.

The window had a difficult birth. There were delays in design and production. His original pencil draft was for a series of scenes from contemporary Irish literature in eight square panels of glass. But Clarke fell ill with TB and the panels were only just completed at the point when he had to be transported to the Swiss sanatorium where he eventually died. The window was, at that point unglazed. The family firm completed the work and billed the Ministry but the window was never transported to Geneva. It was bought back by Clarke's family and exhibited on loan at The Dublin Municipal Gallery until 1988 when it was bought and restored by the Wolfsonian Institute in Miami where it still resides today.

The images below show the window as it is now and then six watercolour and pencil sketches for some of the panels which were sold at Southeby's in 1996 with estimate ranging from £8,000-£20,000 each.

I'm fairly sure that this is the first appearence of these images on the Internet - which, to be honest, gives me a little frisson of pleasure! How camp is that"

PS. John C., I have to say that comparisons between the film and the play (or at least this production) could take me twice as long to write about as the comment on the play below. Suprisingly they didn't update the jingles and equally surprisingly, it didn't seem to matter much. The program notes say that the text was only updated in a very very few insignificant places. The whole had no feel of being dated. The other significant difference for me between stage and screen is that on the stage, there are some laughs! Obviously there can't be any of that straight-to-camera agonising by Dysart on stage and Griffiths certainly played it a lot less fiercely. The banter he has with his magistrate friend actually relieves the tension at points on the stage in a way it doesn't during the film. Anonymous, thank you for the information on the Delany bookcover - do feel free to introduce yourself if you want to... Macdowells, you can lecture me all day long about spacing, type, typography and the placing of the 'small stone' on the page and I will listen and learn.

1 comment:

John C said...

I'm surprised they didn't alter the references in the play, then again I'm surprised he put such period-specific things in there in the first place. But then everything dates eventually, not least language itself.

Maximum respect to Harry Clarke. All that great work and dead at 42. Yike.

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