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Harry Clarke
(Irish, 1889-1931)
This illustration by Harry Clarke accompanied Edgar Allan Poe's classic tale "The Pit & The Pendulum" which appeared in "Tales of Mystery and Imagination" (1919).
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Having apprenticed in stained glass design, Harry Clarke became adept at composing with flat shapes. That design sense carried over into his illustrations work as well. Clarke became one of Ireland's leading figures of the Symbolist movement, applying his craftsmanship and design to the artistic ideals of the day. Throughout a good part of his career, he did both glass work-- in a studio that would eventually bear his name-- and some truly noteworthy book illustration.

Clarke became well known for the stylized appearance of his drawings, somewhat influenced by Aubrey Beardsley's "decadent" look. He used elongated, stylized figures, solid flat areas and large amounts of delicate and elaborate details. Clarke's work has its own distinct quality and its uniqueness brought him to the attention of one of the biggest publishers in London. His earliest published works in books occurred in 1916, with the Harrap edition of Fairy Tales by Hans Christian Andersen. Soon afterwards, Clarke following with illustrations for Tales of Mystery and Imagination by Edgar Allan Poe. That book featured Clarke's intricate ink work and wild imagination, and was so successful that a second edition quickly followed the first, with an additional eight plates in color. His penchant for the bizarre imagery in Poe's tales would be encouraged again when he illustrated Faust in 1923.

Tales of Mystery and Imagination is to the day viewed as a definitive treatment of Poe illustration, and it established Clarke among the leading gift book illustrators working in London at the time.

Clarke's successes in both his illustration and his glass work pulled more from him that he had to give. In the late 1920s his health began to suffer. Following the death of both his father and then his brother (with whom he shared the work at the stained glass studio), he succumbed to tuberculosis before he was forty-two.

Menges, Jeff A. 101 Great Illustrators From the Golden Age, 1890-1925. Published by Dover Publications, Inc., Mineola, New York, 2016. p. 49.

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