Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Fine Lines and Solid Blacks, Vol. V

It has come to my attention that sometimes in discussing the more interesting facets of an illustrator, some of the "basics" can be overlooked. Take Harry Clarke (1890-1931) for example. Harry Clarke is one of my favorites of the period. Over the past few years there has been a VIEW post on some really hard-to-find Clarke works, and he was mentioned again in reference to a collected work, more recently. To not offer a look at why I think he's worth some more study, is just, well, wrong. So let's fix that.

In the small amount of time that Clarke had to share his genius with the world, he managed to explore a few creative avenues. Stained glass design may be what he applied most of his time and talent to, and in his native Ireland there still exist many examples of his fine glass work. I found Harry Clarke while in my teens, during an after-Christmas book sale, when a reprint of Poe's Tales of Mystery and Imagination came into my possession. Like many designer/illustrators of the Golden Age, Clarke had the opportunity to do a number of gift books, his were from 1915-1925. The Poe volume is his best known, and easiest to obtain a reprint of. (It was one of the first selected for the Calla reprint program, as well) Clarke's others are not as easy to find, though a reprint of his Fairy Tales of Charles Perrault will be available this Fall. Another of Clarke's prizes is his Fairy Tales by Hans Christian Andersen. All of the works shown here come from that volume. I'm looking at Clarke in a Fine Lines and Solid Blacks segment because I think his ink work is exceptional in his use of pattern and understanding of value—value here meaning the transition(s) between blacks, grays, and whites, and how their relative placement on the picture plane affects the composition. A viewer can observe these images at a glance, or choose to dig deeper and deeper into them, where a single plate can tell its own story. Clarke's color illustration doesn't present with the same intensity through simplicity—black and white—and loses something in the printing, according to some who have seen his originals.

There has been a kind of scholarly-reawakening in regards to Clarke in the last five years, but it does look to his glass work primarily.

You can keep up with that here
and as mentioned in that earlier VIEW blog, here's the link to Jim Vadeboncouer's page on Clarke.

Back shortly. Jeff

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