Intro to Faust.

The Trouvelot astronomical images end today, and tomorrow, we’ll start with Harry Clarke, a prolific and incredibly talented stained glass artist and illustrator. Clarke died very young, age 41, but left an amazing amount of work, and most of the books he illustrated are still in print today. Clarke had a habit of incorporating self-portraits into most all of his work, including his stained glass work:

Left: Photograph of Clarke in the posture of crucifixion. Right: Detail, Crucifixion (1920).

All of Clarke’s illustrations are amazingly beautiful, even when they depict the macabre. In 1914, a decade before he would illustrate Goethe’s Faust, Clarke depicted himself as an absinthe drinking Mephistopheles:

Mephisto (1914), Clarke’s self-portrait as an absinthe drinking Mephistopheles.

Clarke’s The Last Hour of the Night (1922), the frontispiece for Dublin of the Future, the prize-winning design for an urban planning competition staged in 1914 (but not published until 1922 because of the intervening violence and devastation).

It took me a while to decide on doing Clarke’s illustrations, simply because it would make for a very long series, but they are all exquisite. So, we’ll start with Faust, then move on to the illustrations for Poe’s Tales of Mystery and Imagination, then on to Hans Christian Andersen’s Fairy Tales. We’ll be traveling with Harry Clarke for a bit over three months.

Most of the posts will have more than one image – opening pages will be together, as will decoratives, and beginning and chapter ends.


  1. says

    I love love love love love the mephistopheles. I wonder if I could find a high enough resolution scan of that to make a poster.

    My edition of Poe, with his illustrations, is my favorite. I, uh, used to compulsively collect copies on ebay; I think I did a giveaway last year [stderr]

    Unrelated, I recently discovered that 1st editions (including some signed ones) of Ogdred Weary’s (Edward Gorey) The Curious Sofa are surprisingly affordable and therefore extremely giftable (in the $50 range on ebay)

  2. says

    Um, I mentioned that in the post, and it’s in the caption, too. Clarke was well known for drawing portraits of himself in everything, no matter the character. There’s a gorgeous self portrait in Faust, in the opening pages.

    If you visit the Christie’s page which I linked, his penchant for self portraiture is mentioned in the Lot Essay.

  3. says

    I have a lovely edition of Baudelaire’s Fleurs Du Mal with very Clarke-like illustrations. I’m not sure who did them. It’s not Hallman or Schwabe. (Also very giftable on ebay)

  4. says

    I am (seriously) worried about my brain. Reading comprehension is not where it used to be. I skim everything and forget it within seconds. I don’t know if that’s normal ageing or a sign of something worse, but I grew up with a near photographic memory and now that it’s not, I screw up all the time.

  5. jimb says

    Oooh, I like that Poe cover. Looking forward to this series, Caine.

    Marcus: I’m experiencing a similar thing. I’m chalking it up to age (and Scotch :-)).

  6. says

    @ Marcus, Jimb
    I am observing the same on me. Maybe it is age related, maybe I am just too tired and stressed these last two years.

  7. voyager says

    The eyes in every piece have such wonderful malevolence. I can’t wait to see more! I hope there’s more stained glass, too . I’m a sucker for beautiful glass.

Leave a Reply