Heritage Week Lecture: Harry Clarke, Work and Legacy: Conserving Crawford Art Gallery’s Stained Glass Panels

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A special event focusing on the conservation of stained-glass panels by Harry Clarke will take place at Crawford Art Gallery during National Heritage Week.

Crawford Art Gallery is thrilled to have received a Heritage Stewardship Fund grant from The Heritage Council to carry out essential conservation and reframing of three early stained-glass panels by Ireland’s greatest stained-glass artist Harry Clarke.

The three panels in question, The Godhead Enthroned, The Meeting of St Brendan with the Unhappy Judas, and The Consecration of St. Mel, Bishop of Longford, by St Patrick are rare examples of the artist’s early work and demonstrate his remarkable originality.

Acquired directly from the artist in 1924 through the Gibson Bequest Fund, they date from 1910-11 and were made while Clarke was still a student at the Dublin Metropolitan School of Art. He was awarded the highly coveted gold medal for these panels at the South Kensington National Competitions in 1911, competing against students from England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland.

Over the past hundred years, the panels have deteriorated through natural ageing, as well as constant exhibition display.

Now this Heritage Stewardship Fund project is facilitating essential conservation to be carried out by stained-glass conservator, Philip Crook of Vitrail Studios and is divided into two phases.

Philip Crook at work 4

The first phase took place in March/April 2023 and involved the three panels being carefully removed from their existing lightboxes which were backlit by heat-generating fluorescent bulbs.

The panels were then carefully secured, cleaned, and condition reported. At this time, Philip also carried out immediate consolidation measures to secure any cracks and losses and took detailed measurements of each panel.

The second phase will take place 14-18 August during National Heritage Week when members of the public are invited to watch Philip at work.

During these dates, visitors to Floor 2 of Crawford Art Gallery will be able to view Philip carrying out the final consolidation of lead and glass sections and fitting the panels into their bespoke frames.

Created by Martlet Ltd. – who has worked with the Victoria and Albert Museum, London to design frames for stained-glass works – these will be illuminated by a custom-made APPLELEC LED panel system. This lighting system produces simulated natural light wavelengths to prevent heat build-up, which will preserve these treasures in the future as well as enhance their display.

The highlight of the week will be a lecture by Philip which, in addition to discussing Harry Clarke’s fascinating techniques – such as his mastery of ‘flashed glass’ – will place these three panels within the context of his wider oeuvre.

Philip will also discuss Clarke’s well-known later works, The Eve of St Agnes (Hugh Lane Gallery) and The Song of the Mad Prince (National Gallery of Ireland) and explain the development of his approach to stained-glass making and use of materials.

Philip Crook says: “It is always a privilege to work on the glass of Harry Clarke; the most technically accomplished and imaginative of all 20th-century stained glass artists. The three Crawford Art Gallery stained glass panels are his earliest known works in this medium. They were produced in the years 1910 to 1911 yet reveal in this short space of time the development of the techniques which make his work so individual.”

Philip’s lecture is a free, ticketed event at 1pm on Wednesday 16 August in the Lecture Theatre of Crawford Art Gallery. Tickets can be reserved in advance on Eventbrite.

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