Harry Clarke in colour


Older illustrated books often suffer at the hands of owners or a certain breed of iniquitous antique dealer who razor out their colour plates in order to frame them as prints. The Internet Archive has two copies of The Year’s at the Spring; An Anthology of Recent Poetry (1920) edited by Lettice D’Oyly Walters, and illustrated by Harry Clarke: one copy features all of the colour plates, the other has many of them missing. Looking at these again I thought it worth drawing attention to their peculiar mixture of the delicate and the grotesque, a result of illustrating a variety of content combined with Clarke’s habit of pushing book illustration into areas where few of his contemporaries would tread. His painting for The Donkey by GK Chesterton is at once an accurate illustration of the poem but also quite repellent, especially in the company of those phallic extrusions which become increasingly common in his later work. Elsewhere, when illustrating James Elroy Flecker’s The Dying Patriot, it’s a description of submerged corpses that he chooses to depict.

The rest of the book—which contains many beautiful ink drawings—may be browsed here or downloaded here. The Internet Archive is raising funds throughout December to support its running costs. I’ve been using their books as a source of reference a great deal over the past two years so was happy to contribute something.




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