Despite the fact that Harry Clarke died at the early age of 42, he accomplished so much during that short life in his beloved profession of master craftsman in stained glass that he practically worked himself to death. He was the son of a church decorator whose work included stained glass.
At the age of 14 he began apprenticeship and study at the Metropolitan School of Art, and soon developed his own individual style. His first outstanding work, which many believe was his greatest, was on the windows of the Honan Chapel in Cork, which he executed at the age of 26. Though he is thought of as a religious artist, much of his work entails the depiction of old Celtic themes, and scenes from ancient Irish Literature and from modern Irish literature.
One of these latter, the Geneva Window, was a source of some controversy and perhaps misunderstanding. It is a window of eight elaborate panels and was commissioned by the first Free State Government of W.T. Cosgrave as Ireland’s gift to the International Labour Organisation building in Geneva.
However, it never reached Geneva as some members of the Government considered some sections of the work to be of an erotic nature, and so this beautiful work of art has been lost to Ireland and is now housed in the Wolfsonian Foundation in Miami.
Clarke’s final years were dogged by ill health. He went to Switzerland hoping for relief from his tuberculosis, but he died there on 6th January 1931.