Here at De Parma, alongside our midcentury designs, we are wonderfully passionate about post-war British art. Our gallery is home to works by some of the most auspicious British artists and sculptors to date. Amongst our collection you will find an array of pieces by the late Geoffrey Clarke – a man who’s contribution to the realm of art has been both diverse and pioneering.
Clarke developed his work in an era where art had huge religious and spiritual influences, which is evident in many of his creations. In the very early part of his career he was commissioned to use this spiritual inspiration as a guide to design and create the stain glass windows of Coventry Cathedral, alongside their high alter, crown of thorns and flying cross. This incredible opportunity soon marked his career and the demand for his work began to escalate rapidly. He soon went on to create a number of works for banks, offices, universities, schools, and of course churches and cathedrals.
He was a man who truly lived. In the 1960s, he lived an almost James Bond lifestyle, driving a gull-wing Mercedes and learning to fly a helicopter to get him to commissions! As his career skyrocketed he developed a highly innovative casting technique. He lead an evolution from the approach of modelling in clay and casting in bronze or iron and began to create moulds using polystyrene buried in sand and casting in aluminium. The polystyrene would simply evaporate leaving a beautifully created form. These works are particularly attractive because of the precision, balance and considered use of the grey, textured metal.
Clarke also had a great appreciation for design and architecture, which makes De Parma the perfect setting for appreciating his work. His sculptures sit well with the best design pieces of mid 20th Century that we own. With Clarke, style was fundamental, he wanted his work to be ‘lived’ rather than simply appreciated, and his sculptures were intended to be seen in relation to architecture. He also designed some furniture for himself, as well as textiles for Edinburgh Weavers.
His sense of the Zeitgeist was unerring. His quirky pieces in iron and beautiful stained glass embody the spirit of the ’50s, while a decade later his leaner, more abstract pieces in aluminium were perfectly in tune with the ’60s. Clarke’s field of creativity was wonderfully diverse – he worked in iron, aluminium, glass, enamel, wood and silver, producing sculptures in relation to the landscape in the late 1960s, and even making aromatic, interactive sculptures in the early 1970s.
He is currently best known for his work in iron and stained glass, which stands alongside his better-known contemporaries, Lynn Chadwick and Reg Butler, but has its own individuality. Clarke’s aluminium sculptures are now beginning to receive the acknowledgement they deserve. While his reputation and awareness of his work is currently on the rise, we continue to collect and promote his work.
We would like to thank Judith LeGrove who has contributed a lot of very useful information for this article on Mr.Clarke and look forward to the publication of her complete catalogue of Clarke’s work due to be published in 2017, which will no doubt bring clarity to his significant contribution to 20thC art. We also highly recommend Judith’s last book on Geoffrey Clarke: A Sculptor’s Prints, published by Sansom & Company in 2012 which provides a plethora of information on the history or Mr.Clarke and of his work.
Please note that the images provided in this article are some of the wonderful pieces by Clarke available in De Parma.