- Dark Beauty: Hidden Beauty in Harry Clarke's Stained GlassBy Lucy Costigan and Michael Cullen
- Strangest Genius: The Stained Glass of Harry ClarkeBy Lucy Costigan and Michael Cullen
- Harry Clarke: The Life & WorkBy Nicola Gordon Bowe
- Harry Clarke and Artistic Visions of the New Irish StateBy Angela Griffith, Marguerite Helmers and Roisin Kennedy
Important Art by Harry Clarke
Following his prize-winning success at the Dublin Metropolitan School of Art, Clarke was given his first significant book commission by the successful publisher, George Harrap of London. He was to produce 40 full page illustrations, 16 in color, and additional decorative embellishments for both special (some signed and bound in vellum with others boxed and bound in leather or cloth) and trade editions of Andersen's popular fables. The Christie's auction site records that Clarke (who was paid 200 guineas in instalments for the commission) worked "very hard to a scrupulously recorded timetabled routine in London, Dublin and in France [and] completed the job in April 1915. The book was published to acclaim in the autumn of 1916 and ran into a number of subsequent editions, some published by Harraps, others pirated". Christies also records that many of Clarke's original prints were exhibited (and sold) at Brentano's bookstore, Harrap's publishing partner, in New York and that this was "just as well as whatever original artwork by Clarke that had remained in Harraps' London premises was destroyed in the Blitz" (and thus making original coloured illustrations for Clarke's Hans Andersen collection "extremely rare").
Clarke's illustrations for the Fairy Tales of Hans Christian Andersen point towards his career-long penchant for a richly coloured palate and a love of ornamental detail. "The Garden of Paradise" illustrates the tale of a Prince who is lured into the Garden where he encounters a dancing fairy. She is flanked by "the most beautiful maidens, floating and slender, clad in gauzy mist". Clarke decorates the clothing of the figures with exquisite attention to detail; the mosaic, "Klimt-like", patterns coloured in rich reds, blues and dapples of gold helping to distinguish the female figures. The fairy herself is rendered with the whitened complexion and elaborate redhaired coiffure made popular by the Elizabethan miniature, while in the background, an indigo dark night's sky can be made out. If the Prince, who is distinguished by his plain creamy-yellow gown, ignores the fairy's warning not to kiss her he will cause all to vanish into its looming abyss.
Clarke produced many illustrations throughout his short career including single pieces for magazines, and even two rare promotional publications for the Irish whiskey distiller, Jameson. He is also known to have suggested potential future projects to Harrap including Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Huysmans's À rebours, and Bram Stoker's Dracula.
Between 1915 and 1918 Clarke created nine windows for the Honan Chapel of St. Finbarr, at University College Cork.. Some of those windows produced before 1917 went on show in Clarke's studio where they received rave notices. The Irish Times reported for instance that "the windows, in the opinion of some of the most competent critics, rival in beauty some of most remarkable products of Continental art", while Irish novelist Edith Somerville found them pleasantly shocking within the conservative atmosphere of Ireland at the time: "In a chapel dedicated to the Infernal Deities they should be exactly right, gorgeous and sinful".
The Art critic Tom Walker writes that "The cultural energy and idealism at large in pre-revolutionary Ireland lay behind Clarke's first major commission [for the Honan Chapel]". He cites Ann Wilson's essay on the chapel that "reframes these windows as diverging from Irish Catholicism's earlier 19th-century devotional revolution, which had sought to bring the Irish church into line with Vatican-approved norms [and that the] fantastical incorporation into Clarke's depictions of early Irish saints with their associated cults and miracle stories stands at odds with all this".
The legend of Saint Gobnait involves a fable that tells how she unleashed a swarm of giant bees on a group of unsuspecting robbers. Walker wrote: "giant bees and tiny figures of frightened robbers peering out anxiously behind the blue-robed saint, whose pointed, impassive profile, unnaturally long slim hands and geometrically stylised body give her an otherworldly, non-human appearance". Walker concludes that "For a brief period, such a vision precariously coalesced with Catholic as well as nationalist Ireland", but for Clarke, "[yet] more grotesque and degenerate images [will] start to crop up in the 1920s".
While Clarke gained fame in Ireland for his stained glass, it was his illustrations that first brought him international recognition, particularly in the United States. Of the six volumes he illustrated between 1915 and 1931, Poe's Tales of Mystery and Imagination was the most widely disseminated. The book, first published by George G. Harrap in 1919, contained 8 full-colour plates and 24 black and white illustrations. It was reissued in 1923 with this more ominous cover/dustjacket. Poe's macabre exploration of the human psyche was certainly darker than Clarke's previous illustrations for Hans Andersen's fairy tales (and of course, darker than his various religious commissions).
On the cover for the second edition, a bearded and rugged figure pulls back a stage curtain with his skeletal hand, welcoming the reader to the world of Poe's (and Clarke's) fetid imagination. The stage is empty but for a small door through which a figure can be seen raising a mitre. The image evokes a sense of horror, which is echoed in its symbolist border. It is composed of decaying carcases, larval growths and distorted figures. In his review of Clark's illustrations, his friend and director of Ireland's National Gallery Thomas Bodkin wrote "Mr. Clarke gives full rein to his talent for the macabre, the fantastic and the terrible ... it is safe to predict that no one will ever produce more striking effects in black and white". The critic George Russell thought of Clarke as the ideal interpreter of Poe, and remarked on the closeness of their nature. Indeed, Clarke's capacity for darker work was well known at this stage and would be even more fully realized two years later on his illustrations for Goethe's Faust.