Surprising neglect of famous stained glass artist


Although there was talk of a biography of Evie Hone appearing some 20 years ago, she has still not received as much attention as many of her contemporaries, not least her close friend Mainie Jellett. This is particularly surprising as, in the decade before her death in 1955, Hone was the most famous stained glass artist working in these islands.

Among her most famous commissions was one for a large window in Eton College, Windsor which was put in position in spring 1952; the window was her largest commission and depicts the Last Supper and the Crucifixion.

At the time of its completion, a feature in this newspaper noted that one of her ancestors, Galyon Hone, had been glazier to King Henry VI, founder of Eton College more than five centuries earlier. Evie Hone came from a family of artists, including the two Nathaniel Hones. Shortly before her twelfth birthday, she suffered from infantile paralysis and was thereafter lame. This seems not to have affected her adversely, as she moved to London shortly before the first World War in order to study art. While attending classes with Walter Sickert at the Westminster Art School, she met Mainie Jellett and in 1920, the two women both moved to France to continue their studies. There, they spent time with the cubist Andre Lhote, before moving on to work with Albert Gleizes.

When Jellett and Hone held a joint exhibition at the Dublin Painters' Gallery, there was astonishment at their work, which was untitled except for the medium in which each piece had been executed. As The Studio observed, the vast majority of pictures "were as far removed from any effort at representation as they could possibly be". While Jellett stayed the course with abstract cubism, Hone did not. As S B Kennedy notes in his 1991 catalogue, Irish Art and Modernism, while Hone's work was initially very similar to that of Jellett, the former "was never as fully committed to cubism as was her friend and she seems to have concerned herself hardly at all with its theoretical principles".

From the early 1930s onwards, she began to concentrate on stained glass, joining Sarah Purser's An Tur Gloine in 1933; after the older artist's death, Hone took a studio of her own at Marlay Grange, Rathfarnham. By now, she was receiving many substantial commissions; the first significant one had come from the Irish Government to execute a large glass panel for this country's pavilion at the New York World's Fair in 1939. Called My Four Green Fields, it was described by The Irish Times as being "attuned in rich warm tones to harmonise with the mural decoration of the pavilion".

But in the years before her death, the two most significant pieces she produced were the Eton College window and another for the Jesuits at Farm Street in London. Hone was always deeply religious; in the mid-1920s, she spent a year with a community of Anglican nuns in Cornwall and the following decade she joined the Roman Catholic church. Because of the nature of her work, most of Hone's pictures which come up for sale tend to be gouache studies for stained glass or have a strongly religious character. This is certainly the case with the four paintings featuring in an exhibition at the Peppercanister Gallery, Dublin which opens next Thursday.

All have a religious theme and are representational; one shows the Crucifixion and was taken from a stone carving at Kinsale. They are very typical of Hone's mature style after she had largely relinquished the precepts of cubism but still retained the use of warm colouring first learnt in Paris.

Featuring work by many other Irish artists, the show continues until August 19th.