Hone, Evie (1894–1955)
Hone, Evie (1894–1955)
Irish artist who became one of the foremost stained-glass designers of the century. Born Evie Sydney Hone on April 22, 1894 in Dublin, Ireland; died on March 13, 1955, in Dublin; youngest of four daughters of Joseph Hone and Eva (Robinson) Hone; educated at home and in London at Byam Shaw School of Art, Central School of Arts and Crafts and Westminster School of Art; studied in France, 1920–23, with André Lhote and Albert Gleizes; spent two years in an Anglican convent, 1925–27; joined An Túr Gloine (Tower of Glass), 1934; received into the Catholic Church, 1937.
honorary doctorate, Trinity College Dublin (1953); honorary member of Royal Hibernian Academy (1955).
armorial windows and Pentecost (Blackrock College Chapel, 1937–41); My Four Green Fields (1939); Saint Brigid (Loughrea Cathedal, 1942); windows for St. Stanislaus College, Tullabeg, County Offaly (1942); windows for Church of the Immaculate Conception, Kingscourt, County Cavan (1947–48); Eton College Chapel, Berkshire, England (1949–52); St. Michael's Church, Highgate, London (1954).
Evie Hone was descended from a remarkable family of Flemish artists who settled in Britain and Ireland in the 16th and 17th centuries. One of them, Galyon Hone, completed the windows for King's College in Cambridge. Another of her ancestors was the painter Nathaniel Hone (1718–1784). Nathaniel's two sons, Horace and John Camillus, were also painters.
Evie Hone was born in Dublin in 1894, the daughter of Joseph Hone and Eva Robinson Hone ; her mother died two days after her birth. At age 12, Evie contracted infantile paralysis which affected one of her hands and also left her lame. She went to Switzerland for treatment, but her disabilities remained, though she did her best to overcome them and bore them without complaint for the rest of her life. In May and June of 1914, Hone visited Assisi, Venice, and Florence and also enrolled at the Byam Shaw School of Art in London. She later moved to the Central School of Arts and Crafts where Bernard Meninsky proved an inspiring teacher. She met fellow Dublin artist Mainie Jellett while she was studying with Walter Sickert at the Westminster Art School in 1917. The two would remain close friends and colleagues and help champion the cause of modernism in Irish art. It was at Meninsky's instigation that she and Jellett went to Paris to study with André Lhote and later Albert Gleizes, both influential teachers of Cubism. Hone and Jellett returned to Dublin in 1923, but over the next decade they managed to spend some time every year in Gleizes' studio at Servières. Gleizes wrote later that the gentle tenacity of Hone and Jellett had terrified him into teaching them, and that they had helped him to clarify the artistic theories which he set out in his influential book Peinture et ses lois (1922). Gleizes' non-figurative painting made a rhythmic approach to reality by what he called "translation and rotation." His aims implied a two-fold rejection: rejection of a single perspective and rejection of any necessity for the representation of nature.
Hone could have made a career in France but, like Jellett, chose to return to Ireland where she played a seminal role in disseminating the theories and discoveries of Cubism. Ireland was, initially, stony ground for such an endeavor, and Hone and Jellett met not just with incomprehension but often with derision from Irish art critics and from the Royal Hibernian Academy (RHA), a bastion of conservatism. In 1924, Hone and Jellett held a joint exhibition in which the absence of representational art attracted mystified comment. The few representational works, observed The Studio, "when judged by ordinary standards, seemed no better and no worse than the productions of the average uninspired art student in her teens." Despite these put-downs, Hone and Jellett helped to put modernism on a steady footing in Ireland by the Second World War.
In November 1925, Hone gave up painting and entered an Anglican convent, the Community of the Epiphany, in Cornwall. In a letter to Gleizes, she wrote, "I do not feel I have a vocation. It has been very difficult but I feel quite at peace about it and as certain as one can be of anything." Two years later, she returned to France and worked again with Gleizes. She and Jellett were elected to the Abstraction-Creation group and exhibited in Paris at the Salons des Indépendants, Salon des Surindépendants, and the Salon d'Automne.
In the early 1930s, Hone grew tired of the aridity of abstract art and became increasingly interested in stained glass. She studied French Gothic art, visiting Chartres and Le Mans, as well as the more modern work of the French painter Georges Rouault. Dublin had an international reputation in stained glass thanks to An Túr Gloine, the cooperative founded by Sarah Purser and Edward Martyn in 1903. When Hone approached Purser, the latter was at first dismissive but suggested that Hone study with A.E. Child at the Dublin School of Art, which she did. Hone subsequently went to London and sought the advice of the illustrator Arthur Rackham and the stained-glass artist Wilhelmina Geddes in whose kiln Hone made her first panels. She took these to Roland Holst of the Rysakademie in Amsterdam who urged her to continue in stained glass. On her return to Dublin, she joined An Túr Gloine and remained there until Purser's death led to its dissolution in 1943. At An Túr, she had the inestimable benefit of working next to Michael Healy who was a great influence on her work and who, like her, loved the windows at Chartres. Hone received her first commission from Ardcarne Church in Boyle, County Roscommon, and in 1934 she did the windows for St. Naithi's Church in Dundrum, Dublin.
In 1937, Hone was received into the Catholic Church at Blackrock College Chapel in Dublin by its president Dr. John Charles McQuaid, who had commissioned windows for the college chapel from Michael Healy. McQuaid subsequently commissioned work from Hone and, when he became archbishop of Dublin in 1940, was an enthusiastic champion of her work as was the Jesuit priest Father Donal O'Sullivan. In a tribute written after her death, O'Sullivan noted Hone's wide reading—Julian of Norwich , Proust, St. John of the Cross, and Max Jacob. O'Sullivan also highlighted the contribution made to Hone's work by her trusted glazier Tommy Kinsella. As art historian Dorothy Walker observed, Hone was intimately concerned with specifically Christian subjects, in particular the Gospels, as a consequence of her work in church buildings. In Walker's opinion, Hone may have been influenced in this by the untimely death of Harry Clarke, who was one of the finest stained-glass artists of his generation, "although her style was very different from his, much less theatrical and fantastical, more humble, imbued with compassion and mercy. She greatly simplified the outlines and component parts of her compositions, in contrast to Clarke's extravagant detail, and she preferred broad planes of colour to the jewelled sparkle of Clarke and his mentor Michael Healy."
In 1939, Hone's work received major official recognition when she was commissioned by the Irish government to create stained glass for the Irish Pavilion at the New York World's Fair. She designed the striking My Four Green Fields which interpreted the arms of the four Irish provinces in an abstract style. Since the northern province of Ulster had been partitioned in 1920, with six of its nine counties remaining under British control, the title had a potent political message in asserting the Irish government's claim to the six counties of its fourth green field. At the time of Hone's death, My Four Green Fields was packed away in crates, but it would later be installed in the more worthy surroundings of Government Buildings in Merrion Street, Dublin.
In the early 1940s, the number of Hone's ecclesiastical commissions increased considerably, though she was as happy working in a small
country church as on a grand project. She did the Pentecost window at Blackrock College and created three windows for its sister foundation at Rockwell College in Tipperary. For the Jesuits at Clongowes Wood College, she completed the Seven Dolours series begun by Michael Healy (who died in 1941). The Jesuits also commissioned one of her finest creations, the five windows for St. Stanislaus College at Tullabeg in County Offaly which were among her own favorites. Following Sarah Purser's death, An Túr Gloine was dissolved in 1943, and in 1944 Hone established her own studio at Marlay Grange, Rathfarnham, just south of Dublin. Her fellow artist Norah McGuinness noted that the atmosphere there was "unique." Hone was helped by her devoted maid Emmy and guarded by a minute poodle. Her friend, the Dutch artist Hilda van Stockum , did two paintings of her at Marlay which are now in the National Gallery of Ireland. Like Jellett and McGuinness, Hone was a founding member of the Irish Exhibition of Living Art in 1943, but Jellett's early death in 1944 deprived her of a close and supportive friendship.
She leaves a memory of exceptional, serene fortitude and of a tranquil will.
After the war, Hone returned to painting and did the Stations of the Cross for the Church of St. Peter and Paul in Athenry, County Galway, in 1946. She did more painting when in 1948 she went on a long visit to Ravenna and central Italy and became particularly interested in the use of mosaic. She also designed Christmas cards for the Cuala Press. However, stained glass remained her chosen medium, and in 1947–48 she created some of her finest work for the University Hall chapel at Hatch Street in Dublin (another Jesuit institution) and for the Church of the Immaculate Conception at Kingscourt, County Cavan. She regarded the Ascension window at Kingscourt as one her best pieces of work. The writer and critic C.P. Curran agreed: "I do not think there is in Ireland a lovelier window or one of more original design or of more tender colour or that moves one more by its imaginative beauty."
In 1949, Hone was commissioned by Sir Jasper Ridley and Lord Crawford to replace the great East window at Eton College, near Windsor in England, which had been destroyed during the Blitz. Hone had been recommended by Archbishop McQuaid, and when Ridley and Crawford saw the windows at Tullabeg and Kingscourt they agreed. The huge assignment, which Hone was reluctant to accept, entailed modifications to her studio, and she had to use the gymnasium of a local school to spread out her designs. Some of her detailed studies in paper and glass for the Eton window are considered to be beautiful, moving works of religious art in their own right. Despite its scale (it was one of the largest church windows in the British Isles), the window was executed with some speed. Installed in 1952, it measured 10.4 meters by 8.8 meters, almost a thousand square feet. Hone also designed two side windows. A complex work, containing 18 lights with tracery, it is divided into two great horizontals, with the Crucifixion in the upper window and below it the Last Supper flanked by Melchisidek and Abraham. The entire window is surmounted by tiers of tracery and a wealth of symbolic imagery, most notably the Dove of the Holy Spirit at the apex. Curran felt that the first impression was of flatness but then the color and design began to make themselves felt. He considered her groupings of figures to be outstanding. After Eton, she received other commissions in England of which the most important was St. Michael's Church in Highgate, London.
In 1953, the year she was awarded an honorary doctorate by Trinity College Dublin, Hone continued to work despite ongoing pain and increasing physical infirmity. She died suddenly on March 13, 1955, just as she was entering her parish church in Rathfarnham. Hone left a valuable bequest to the National Gallery of Ireland, including works by Picasso and Gris. Three years after her death there was a memorial exhibition in Dublin, and subsequently in London, of drawings, paintings and stained glass which attracted huge crowds and was one of the rare occasions when major examples of her stained glass could be shown. Two of the St. Stanislaus windows, the Ascension from Kingscourt and My Four Green Fields, were erected in a specially designed pavilion.
Fallon, Brian. Irish Art 1830–1990. Belfast: Appletree Press, 1994.
Frost, Stella, ed. A Tribute to Evie Hone and Mainie Jellett. Dublin: Browne and Nolan, 1957.
Kennedy, S.B. Irish Art and Modernism 1880–1950. Belfast and Dublin: Institute of Irish Studies and Hugh Lane Municipal Gallery of Modern Art, 1991.
Snoddy, Theo. Dictionary of Irish Artists: 20th Century. Dublin: Wolfhound Press, 1996.
Walker, Dorothy. Modern Art in Ireland. Dublin: Lilliput, 1997.
White, James. Evie Hone: Memorial Exhibition Catalogue. Dublin, 1958.
Deirdre McMahon , lecturer in history at Mary Immaculate College, University of Limerick, Limerick, Ireland