Crawford Art Gallerypermanent collection

The Key Turns
The Key turns, and the door upon its hinges groans.
(Design for the Eve of St. Agnes Window)
c.1923
Irish School
Pencil, watercolour and gouache on paper
27 x 29 cm

100-P

Gibson Fund acquisition 1924
XLI

They glide, like phantoms, into the wide hall;
Like phantoms, to the iron porch, they glide;
Where lay the Porter, in uneasy sprawl,
With a huge empty flaggon by his side;
The wakeful bloodhound rose, and shook his hide,
But his sagacious eye an inmate owns:
By one, and one, the bolts full easy slide:—
The chains lie silent on the footworn stones;—
The key turns, and the door upon its hinges groan.

"The Eve of St. Agnes"
John Keats












Harry Clarke
1889–1931
Irish School

One of Ireland’s best-known and loved artists, Harry Clarke was born in Dublin in 1889, and trained in the art of stained glass in his father’s church decorating workshop, and in the Dublin Metropolitan School of Art. While he went on to develop a unique style that was very much influenced by Symbolism, the three windows in the Harry Clarke room on the second floor of the Crawford Art Gallery are important works. Purchased directly from the artist by the Gibson Bequest Committee in 1924, The Consecration of St Mel, Bishop of Longford, by St Patrick (1910), The Godhead Enthroned (1911), and The Meeting of St Brendan with the Unhappy Judas (1911), were made between 1910 and 1911 while Clarke was still a student at the Dublin Metropolitan School of Art. He was awarded a gold medal for the windows at the South Kensington National Competitions in 1911, to which students from England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland sent work. Just a few years later, in 1915, Clarke received the commission that made his name as a stained glass artist: eleven windows for the Honan Chapel on the grounds of what is now University College Cork.

While much of his work was for the religious context, Clarke also undertook private commissions, one of which was a window for the home of Harold Jacob in Dublin. Completed in 1924, the imagery in the window was derived from a poem entitled The Eve of St Agnes by John Keats. Clarke won a gold medal for the window at a major exhibition in Dublin prior to its installation in Jacob’s house in 1924. That same year the Gibson Bequest Committee purchased the preparatory watercolours for The Eve of St Agnes from Clarke for the Crawford Art Gallery. They take pride of place, alongside the artist’s early windows, in the Harry Clarke Room. The window was removed from its original context some years later, and was purchased by the Hugh Lane Gallery, Dublin, in 1978.