Throughout his career, architectural artist Brian Clarke has endeavoured to fully integrate his medium within architecture. Widely considered the most important artist working in stained glass today, he has revolutionised not only technologies but also philosophical conceptions of what can be achieved through this medium. Equally important is his pictorial practice, explored in canvas paintings, collages, three-dimensional sculptures and leadworks. Clarke was born in Oldham, Lancashire on 2 July 1953 into a working class family. His father, Edward, was a miner, and his mother, Lilian, worked at the local cotton mill. His paternal grandmother was a Spiritualist and a medium, a peculiar presence that made him more receptive to art and poetry, as well as the concept that the past remains an alive presence within the present. Clarke’s first real encounter with a kind of art that was truly grand and elevating occurred in primary school, when he went on a trip to the cathedral city of York. As a young boy, standing in the nave of York Minster, he was overwhelmed by the power of stained glass, a multi-sensory experience that was so intense it made him faint.
Throughout his career, architectural artist Brian Clarke has endeavoured to fully integrate his medium within architecture. Widely considered the most important artist working in stained glass today, he has revolutionised not only technologies but also philosophical conceptions of what can be achieved through this medium. Equally important is his pictorial practice, explored in canvas paintings, collages, three-dimensional sculptures and leadworks.
Clarke was born in Oldham, Lancashire on 2 July 1953 into a working class family. His father, Edward, was a miner, and his mother, Lilian, worked at the local cotton mill. His paternal grandmother was a Spiritualist and a medium, a peculiar presence that made him more receptive to art and poetry, as well as the concept that the past remains an alive presence within the present.
Clarke’s first real encounter with a kind of art that was truly grand and elevating occurred in primary school, when he went on a trip to the cathedral city of York. As a young boy, standing in the nave of York Minster, he was overwhelmed by the power of stained glass, a multi-sensory experience that was so intense it made him faint.Read more
Brian Clarke with Vespers
Brian Clarke is born in Oldham, Lancashire, at 1:50 a.m. on the 2nd of July.
Clarke is awarded a scholarship and enrols in the Oldham School of Arts and Crafts.
Clarke’s family moves to Burnley where he gains entrance to Burnley College of Art.
Clarke enrols in the Architectural Stained Glass course at North Devon College of Art and Design. Here, he meets several like-minded young artists, including Liz Finch with whom he initiates a lifelong relationship.
Clarke and Finch get married and move to Preston.
Clarke is awarded the Winston Churchill Memorial Travelling Fellowship to study medieval and contemporary stained glass in Italy, France, and West Germany.
Clarke designs a suite of 20 windows for the Church of St Lawrence, Longridge, which is considered his first mature work in glass.
He organises the travelling exhibition Glass Art One, which features secular, autonomous stained glass panels inspired, in part, by Japanese-landscape painting.
Clarke receives a large-scale commission from the University of Nottingham to produce 45 paintings, vestments, and a series of stained glass windows for a multi-faith chapel in the Queen's Medical Centre. One of the largest public art commissions of the decade, the process of design and installation is filmed by the BBC as material for a documentary.
Clarke produces a series of paintings, ‘Dangerous Visions’, inspired by the nihilistic energy of Punk.
As part of the Festival of the City of London Clarke co-curates GLASS/LIGHT, an extensive survey of twentieth-century stained glass, with British artist John Piper and art historian Martin Harrison, in collaboration with Marc Chagall.
The BBC releases an hour-long BBC Omnibus documentary, Brian Clarke: The Story So Far, based on his studio practice.
In the same year, Clarke presents the BBC2 arts programme Mainstream and the BBC Radio 4 programme 'Kaleidescope', conducting interviews with figures including Brassaï, Andy Warhol, John Lennon, and Elisabeth Lutyens.
Granada Television, known today as ITV Granada, releases the documentary Celebration: Time Lag Zero: Impressions of Brian Clarke.
Clarke is commissioned to design and fabricate a stained glass artwork for the Grade II-listed Jewell and Withers Building at 22 Endell Street in Covent Garden, London.
Another important project carried out this year is a suite of stained glass windows for the Olympus European Headquarters in Hamburg.
Clarke lives and works in Düsseldorf and Rome.
He designs stained glass for the skylight and clerestory, main hall, library and office of the King Khaled International Airport Mosque, Riyadh. To prepare for this commission, he studies Islamic ornament at the Quran schools in Fez.
Clarke lives and works in New York.
The architectural practice Derek Latham and Co. asks Clarke to collaborate on the refurbishment of Henry Currey's Grade II listed Thermal Baths in Buxton.
In the same year, he designs a series of sculptural stained glass and windows for the new Government Building, Doha, Qatar.
He lectures in New York and Rome, and at the Royal College of Art, London. He serves as council member for the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust.
Clarke lives and works in Rome.
The solo exhibition Brian Clarke: Stained Glass takes place at Seibu Museum of Art, Yurakacho, Tokyo.
He creates a painted installation of ‘Modular Assemblage’ for Texas Instruments.
Clarke completes stained glass for the barrel vaulted roof of the Cavendish Arcade, Derbyshire, receiving the Europa Nostra Award.
Architect Arata Isozaki approached Clarke to collaborate on the Lake Sagami Country Club in Yamanishi. Clarke designs a composition of stained glass for the central lantern and a series of interrelated skylights that referenced elements of Isozaki’s building.
He collaborates with Norman Foster and his architectural practice Foster + Partners on a proposed design for stained glass works for Stansted Airport's new terminal building. For the first time in the history of stained glass, computer-assisted design was utilised in its visualisation and design. The project remains unrealised.
Clarke becomes a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.
He designs stained glass for the skylight of the Victoria Quarter, the world's largest stained glass window, in Leeds, England.
Another important project is the stained glass roofs for the Spindles Shopping Centre in his native Oldham.
He also designs the Arena and Stadia stage sets for The Paul McCartney World Tour.
Clarke serves as juror for the BBC Design Awards.
He collaborates with Norman Foster and his architectural practice Foster + Partners to create stained glass friezes and a stained glass tower for Stansted Airport's new terminal building.
Alongside many important commissions, Clarke creates an expansive blue cladding for the Hôtel du Département des Bouches du Rhône (which became known as Le Grand Bleu), in collaboration with expressionist architect Will Alsop.
Future Systems, the architectural practice of Jan Kaplický and Amanda Levete, asks Clarke to help them design The Glass Dune. He proposes an internal ‘skin of art’ for their innovative boomerang-shaped building, which was never realised.
Clarke creates a mosaic for W.H. Smith & Sons at Mill Hill House, Abingdon, Oxon and CD covers of the Sir William Walton music catalogue, published by EMI Classical.
An important unrealised project is a collaborative proposal with Zaha Hadid for stained glass and mosaic at Spittelau Viaducts Housing Project, Vienna.
Clarke designs the stained glass and mosaic ceiling for Pfizer Pharmaceuticals World Headquarters, Emery Roth and Sons Building, New York.
He is appointed Trustee of Ely Cathedral Museum of Stained Glass.
Clarke accepts a commission to realise a sculptural stained glass artwork (known as the Stamford Cone) for UBS, Swiss Bank Corporation headquarters in Stamford, Connecticut. The artwork will be unveiled in 1999.
He submits a proposal for the Great Auditorium Paris Opera, Bastille.
Clarke designs a set of stained glass for the Chicago Sinai Congregation Synagogue.
Clarke is appointed sole executor of the Estate of Francis Bacon, acting on behalf of Bacon's heir John Edwards. In the same year, Edwards and Clarke donate the contents of Bacon's studio at 7 Reece Mews, London, left untouched since Bacon's death, to the Hugh Lane, the Dublin City Gallery.
Clarke creates a stained glass facade and mosaic floor for Olympus Optical European Headquarters, Hamburg. He also completes the large stained glass wall for Al-Faisliah Center, Riyadh, in collaboration with Foster + Partners.
The Glass Wall stained glass window is installed for permanent exhibition at the Corning Museum of Glass in New York.
Clarke is appointed Governor of Capital City Academy and Trustee for The Lowe Educational Charitable Foundation.
Clarke works with Norman Foster on the Palace of Peace and Reconciliation, a landmark building in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan. He designs a 9,700 square expanse of stained glass for the apex of the pyramid, featuring imagery of soaring doves.
Clarke is appointed Chairman of The Architecture Foundation and Trustee for the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust.
He is awarded a Honorary Degree in Literature from the Huddersfield University.
The exhibition Brian Clarke: Don’t Forget the Lamb, featuring Clarke’s ground-breaking leadworks, opens at Phillips de Pury, New York.
Clarke is commissioned to design stained windows for the new Papal Chapel of the Apostolic Nunciature, the diplomatic embassy of the Holy See to Great Britain, for the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to the United Kingdom, the first-ever state visit made by a pope to Britain.
Clarke is appointed Honorary Liveryman by the Worshipful Company of Glaziers and Master Glass Painters.
The exhibition Brian Clarke: Between Extremities opens at Pace Gallery, New York.
Clarke creates stained glass, mosaic, ceramics tiles and door and window furniture for a private house in Chiswick Mall, London.
He designs the new Fellowship Medallion for the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust.
The retrospective Brian Clarke: Works 1977–1985 - as curated by Robert Fraser, takes place at Pace Gallery at the Royal Academy of Arts, London.
The exhibition Brian Clarke: Spitfires and Primroses opens at Pace Gallery, London.
Clarke creates designs for a series of stained glass windows for the transept at Salisbury Cathedral. The project is never realised.
Clarke is awarded a Doctorate of Humane Letters by the Virginia Theological Seminary.
He designs a set of windows for the Beaverbrook Country Club Coach House Spa at Cherkley Court.
Brian Clarke: The Art of Light opens at Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, Norwich. His ground-breaking free standing stained glass folding screens are exhibited for the first time.
Clarke starts an ongoing series of collage-based works inspired by flowers, birds and other natural forms. He defines this artistic practice as ‘cutting into colour’.
Brian Clarke: A Great Light, a solo exhibition showcasing artworks from the previous two decades alongside new stained glass work, opens at Newport Street Gallery in London. A highlight of the exhibition is Ardath, a monumental glass wall composed by 11 columns designed specifically for the gallery space.
Clarke is knighted in the King's New Year Honours List for his services to the arts, likely becoming the first artist working in stained glass to receive the award.