Harry Clarke’s Haunted Faces, Fragile Silhouettes

The folks over at A Journey Round My Skull were so kind as to scan a 1923 copy of Edgar Allan Poe’s Tales of Mystery and Imagination, illustrated by Harry Clarke. Clarke, an accomplished turn of the century stained glass artist and illustrator, relished anatomy and minutiae, obsessively rendering every refined cheekbone, elongated toe, hair follicle and fabric fold. I spent at least an hour poring over this Flickr set in wonderment, pausing to view each hyper-detailed image at high resolution.

Though Clarke was Aubrey Beardsley’s contemporary, and they share a fondness of stylization and monochrome, I think he surpasses mister B. not only with the amount of detail packed into his illustrations, but also with the darkness radiating from each plate. There is something inherently unhinged about these characters and a certain demonic unrest dances behind their thin, sallow faces, even in moments of outward tranquility. These haunted faces, fragile silhouettes,  and rich patterns have earned Harry Clarke a spot among my top favorite illustrators of all time, right next to Von Bayros and, of course, uncle Vania. Hit the jump for a few more.

30 Responses to “Harry Clarke’s Haunted Faces, Fragile Silhouettes”

  1. David Forbes Says:

    Wow. These are stunning. I’m a lifelong Poe fan and somehow had never encountered these. Thank you so much for sharing them.

  2. Luis A. Says:

    This is indeed some amazing work. I didn’t really knew the artist, but will for sure be one of my favorites.

    Gotta research more about him now!

  3. mlle ghoul Says:

    “…inherently unhinged about these characters and a certain demonic unrest…” Heh. Heh.

    I do believe that is precisely why I love his illustrations so much; while the details are all so beautifully ornate, they all just look so damn deranged!

  4. pencilpuri Says:

    Wow! There’s something oddly erotic about his work, the third one and the final two especially. Maybe it’s all the beautiful people..

  5. DerelictHat Says:

    Now I’m needing to find a good way to get some hi-res versions of these printed and on my walls.

  6. Evan Says:

    These are simply amazing. I love lingering over all the details. Thanks for sharing.
    For some reason the colored pieces made me think of Yoshitaka Amano, whom I adore.

  7. Keith Says:

    If you’re ever in Cork Ireland, visit the Crawford Art Gallery ( http://www.crawfordartgallery.ie ), they have a great collection of his graphic work, and his stain glass work

  8. Nadya Says:

    OH MY GOD. I’d seen one of these before (on one of Kambriel’s post cards, I believe?) but not the others. Thank you so much for digging this up! LOVE.

  9. Zoetica Says:

    Keith, Thank you! I’m dying to go to Ireland, actually. If/when I do, this is definitely going on the list.

    Nadya and David, it’s my pleasure! His work always leaves my jaw on the floor.

    Evan, agreed. I’m 100% positive Amano was influenced, if not by Clarke specifically, then by the illustration of that era in general.

  10. Vivacious G Says:

    Ohhhh so wonderful, am going over to that flickr set right now. Thank you.

  11. alouise Says:

    so thrilled about this post! i love harry clarke. ligeia being my favorite poe story, i found the corresponding illustration years ago and have been in love with clarke’s tenebrous and finely detailed work ever since. thanks for the great article!

  12. Sam Says:

    I first saw these illustrations when I was in grade school almost twenty years ago and have been haunted by them ever since! Thank you so much for sharing this link…what fond and frightening memories they doth stir!

  13. Shay Says:

    Wow, these are wonderful..!

  14. Michelle Says:

    These are AMAZING. It almost makes me sad that they’re probably too detailed for tattoo work, I’d love to see one inked on someone…

  15. Tertiary Says:

    I’ve contemplated one of these as a back-piece, briefly (the second),
    but decided it simply wouldn’t age well, and simplifying it would be sort of missing the point.

  16. Jerem Morrow Says:

    I got a Poe book with his work, just this xmas. First I’d set my eyes on. Wonderful.

  17. William J. Kiesel Says:

    Harry Clarke has always been a favorite of mine, especially the illustrations he did for Goethe’s Faust. If you seek out the latter make sure you locate a copy with the extra color illustrations, they are worth it.

  18. lily Says:

    I love !!! these! I think Beardsley did some Poe illustrations as well, and they don’t even come close to this. However, in support of Mr. B, I have to say his Salome illustrations are works of amazing brilliant super genius.

  19. Mer Says:

    Harry Clarke is incredible!! His Faust illustrations made me gasp the first time I encountered them, but I hadn’t seen his Poe stuff before now. Thanks, Z!!

  20. Dave C Says:

    One of my all-time favourite artists. For some reason there isn’t a decent book about him still in print, but the best place to start is ‘The Life and Work of Harry Clarke’ by Nicola Gordon Bowe. Not too difficult to find a second hand copy. A cheap softback version of Faust was published by Harrap in the eighties, with most of the amazing coloured plates reproduced in (gasp!) full colour, but you’d be lucky to find a copy now. He truly deserves his place in the pantheon next to Von Bayros, Beardsley and the mighty Vania! And his stained glass is beyond belief!

  21. whelky Says:

    god, i love harry clarke; finding that image of morella above, when i was a poe-obsessed kid, probably had the biggest impact on defining my sense of aesthetics for the rest o’ my life afterward. i found an old copy of his illustrated Faust a few years ago in a dusty bookstore, in great condition & for a disgustingly cheap price, but regrettably gave it away to an ex. some of his stuff(faust included) gets really far-out weird, and then gets further out – with mutated chthonic organ systems and ambiguous genitalia blooming in the background. i like that some of that stuff shows up in the stained glass that churches commissioned him to make too.

    this has always been a favorite, and i’ve always assumed was a rendition of The Mothers scene from faust II.

  22. alumiere Says:

    These are gorgeous. I hope a new printing of both the Poe and the Faust book are done sometime soon. Much more lovely the Beardsley IMHO.

  23. Leetastrophy Says:

    Incredible work! I didn’t recognize the artist’s name, but the work seems rather familiar to me. Makes me wanna’ dig up some Gustav Klimt or Yoshitaka Amano.

  24. Tequila Says:

    I had a book with some of these images years ago. It has sadly been lost since so this is a great find as I never knew who the artist was. To see it all like this is really what the internet should be used for…oh and cat memes of course.

    Massive thanks for this. This is eye candy for me on epic levels.

  25. Leslie Crawford Says:

    What beautiful work… Thanks for sharing. I love these.

  26. links for 2010-03-15 : W. Crouse Says:

    […] Harry Clarke’s Haunted Faces, Fragile Silhouettes (tags: art) March 15, 2010 | Filed Under WebSurfing  […]

  27. Harry Clarke’s illustrations for Edgar Allan Poe | Technoccult Says:

    […] (via Coilhouse) […]

  28. ronan colgan Says:

    Hi, just to let you know we have just published a new book on the entire collection of Harry Clarke’s stained glass. It is called Strangest Genius, and includes a foreword from Clarke’s granddaughter, Sunniva Clarke Sheridan. The book is a full colour hardback edition, and has been profiled in The Irish Times. A link to the review is here: http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/weekend/2010/0515/1224270446806.html
    The book is available now, from our site, from Amazon.co.uk, and from any good bookshop.

  29. ray mcgovern Says:

    clarke deserves a book exclusively on his illustrations .the new book
    on his stain glass is spectacular with the most advanced photography employed . this method could also show his illustrations to best effect as some of these examples demonstrate so well

  30. Camel Productions Says:

    The only film of the life and work of Harry Clarke is available here:
    Title – Harry Clarke – Darkness in Light
    Writer/Director – John J Doherty
    “Documentarian John J Doherty examines the life of Clarke and the controversial nature of his work, culminating in his clash with the conservative Irish Free State over his ‘offensive’ masterpiece, the Geneva Window’. Visually spectacular and poetically told, Darkness in Light is a fitting showcase of Clarke’s unique and haunting vision.” Boston Irish Film Festival