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The Life and Work of Richard King

Religion, Nationalism and Modernism


Ruth Sheehy

This book on the Irish liturgical artist Richard King (1907-74), examines his career in the context of religion, nationalism and modernism. The book focuses on the interdisciplinary relationship between religion and art during pre- and post-Vatican II Ireland. The importance of Irishness and nationalism is shown by the artist’s early secular work of the 1930s and 1940s. His apprenticeship under Harry Clarke (1889-1931) was pivotal for his principal career as a stained glass artist. However, his departure from the Harry Clarke Stained Glass Studios in 1940 allowed him to gradually move away from Clarke’s influence and to develop his own artistic identity. King was also a talented illustrator for The Capuchin Annual and The Father Mathew Record. From the late 1940s to the early 1970s, his awareness of the work of other artists in Ireland, England and Europe led him to engage with modernism. The Documents of Vatican II and his interest in the Scriptures and theology enabled King to grow at the spiritual level which was reflected in his religious art of the mid to late 1960s and early 1970s. His study of the theological writings of French palaeontologist, philosopher and theologian Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955) was crucial for King’s more intellectual approach to matters of Christian faith.


1. Birth and Education in Mayo, 1907-27, Artistic Training in DMSA, 1927-28, Apprenticeship under Harry Clarke, 1928-30, Early Stained Glass Windows, 1930-34

2. King’s talents flourish in Stained Glass, Opal Glass, Stamp Designs and Black and White Illustration, 1934-40

3. The Capuchin Annual and The Father Mathew Record, 1940-48, Retrospective Exhibition at Victor Waddington Gallery, Dublin, 1948 

4. The Stained Glass Studio and Modernising the Religious Image, Commissions for Ireland and Overseas, 1948-59

5. Vatican II, Liturgical Reform, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Theological and Artistic Maturity, 1960-65

6. Culmination of King’s achievement in Stained Glass, Enamels and Illustration, Death, Tributes and Legacy, 1965-74

APPENDIX: List of All Documented Work by Richard King in Ireland and Overseas