Harry Clarke, Irish, 1889-1931
Title: The Wild Swans
Date: 1915
Medium: Ink and watercolour, with bodycolour highlights on paper
30.5 x 21 cm
Signed: upper left: Harry Clarke lower right: 27
Credit Line: Heritage Gift, Lochlann and Brenda Quinn, 2008
Object Number: NGI.2008.89.5
DescriptionIn 1913 Harry Clarke, aged 24, was given his first major book illustration commission by George Harrap and Company, a prominent London publisher. This prestigious job entailed producing 40 full-page illustrations, 16 of which were to be in colour, for Hans Christian Andersen’s Fairy Tales, published for both special de luxe and trade editions. Clarke completed the commission in Dublin in April 1915, around the same time that he commenced work on his first major stained-glass commission for the Honan Chapel in Cork. The book was published the following autumn to great acclaim. The jewel-like colours that suffuse these illustrations are reminiscent of the artist’s work in stained glass.
The Wild Swans forms part of a collection of ten original watercolours, gifted to the Gallery in 2008, which illustrate such popular tales as The Snow Queen and The Nightingale. Embellished with exquisitely crafted detail and sumptuously rich colour, these drawings bring to life Andersen’s magical fairytale world in a highly unique and imaginative way. Fortuitously The Little Sea Maid, another Andersen subject, came to light in 2009 and was acquired by the Gallery.

March 2016

ProvenanceA.& M. Shands, USA, by 1994; The Fine Art Society, London; Heritage Gift, Lochlann and Brenda Quinn, 2008
Exhibition HistoryHarry Clarke: Ten Original Illustrations for Hans Christian Andersen's Fairy Tales, The Fine Art Society, London, 2008
Inscription'The Wild Swans':/'The Whole day they flew onward throught he air', [illegible] Speedwell Northwood (on verso of mount)

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