This morning I went on an adventure to Bewley’s Café to see the Harry Clarke windows. I’m sure I have mentioned my love of Harry Clarke’s art before, and these windows are fine examples of his work. Clarke’s windows for the Bewley’s Oriental Café date from 1926, and they illustrate architectural orders. As the café was busy for breakfast time, my pictures aren’t the best (particularly of the two decorative windows) but I hope they will show some of the intricate detailing in the windows.
The wonderful thing about these windows is that you can really get up close and study Clarke’s technique. The brushwork from the washes applied to the glass can be seen, and the rough texture left from the acid work. In the Harry Clarke Room there are six windows – four have columns of classical orders – Ionic, Doric, Tuscan and Corinthian respectively – and two have decorative patterns of flowers and vines.
All the windows have a light brown background, the colour of parchment. The windows showing the architectural orders have a column topped with an urn of flowers at their centre, framed with beading, compositions of flowers, vines and birds, and finally intricate silhouetted designs. Flowers twist around the shaft of the column, cleverly concealing the lead work. Each column has flowers of a different type and colour – red for Ionic, blue for Doric, orange for Tuscan and purple for Corinthian. The lead work behind the columns forms a grid, on which some of the colourful birds perch.
There is a wealth of detail in each window – as well as the exotic birds seen in my pictures there are some minutely detailed butterflies and colourful flowers. They are a real joy to examine – there is just so much to be discovered. The columns themselves are also very detailed with fluting and sculpted capitals.
The windows are in wonderful condition, some repair work is evident on the shaft of the Ionic column, but in general the lead work is restricted to Clarke’s careful and controlled usage. It is wonderful to be able to sit right beneath the window, examine all the details and revel in Clarke’s imagination and talent.