Richard King / Rísteard Ó Cíonga: Stained Glass Artist / Illustrator
This extremely talented man was a gifted stained-glass artist that also excelled in oil paintings. He designed Irish Stamps. His last window was for Newport Church, Co. Mayo. [i]
Artist Richard King was born in Castlebar, Co. Mayo on 7th July 1907. He was the second son of Margaret and John James King. His father was an R. I. C. Officer who retired to Westport Quay during 1920. Richard King was educated at the De La Salle Brothers’ School in Castlebar until 1917, at Palmfield National School in Carracastle up to 1920 then at the Christian Brothers’ School in Westport until 1925. During 1927, the family moved to 10 Claremont Place in Dublin. Initially, King had wished to become an architect but then studied Life Drawing with Sean Keating, plus design & illustration with Austin Mulloy from (1927 – 1928) at the Dublin Metropolitan School of Art. His tutor Austin Mulloy, (a friend & colleague of Harry Clarke) recognised King’s artistic ability and that he would be highly suited to stained glass art work. [ii]
Mulloy introduced Richard King to Clarke: during March 1928, King joined the Harry Clarke Stained Glass Studios. With Clarke’s demise in 1931, King became Chief Designer of the Studios. During 1935 he was promoted to Studios Manager. He was instrumental in creating stained glass windows for Ireland, Britain, Canada, United States and Australia. Perhaps his greatest work (while working at these studios) was the set of windows he created in 1937 for St Peter and Paul’s Church in Athlone, Co. Westmeath; depicted were ‘St. Patrick’, ‘Mary Crowned with Stars’, ‘St. Joseph’, ‘Sacred Heart’, ‘Purgatory’ also a series of portraits. [iii]
King established his own studio during 1940, at Number 2 Hawkcliff, Vico Terrace, Vico Road in Dalkey, where he produced oil paintings also his Stained – Glass art. [iv] One of his early commissions was the Kevin Barry Memorial window in University College, Earlsford Terrace, Dublin. [v] During WW2, he created religious illustrations for ‘The Father Matthew Record’ up until 1972. There are seventy – three of his paintings at the Capuchin Friary, Church Street, Dublin that include several series of the ‘Mysteries of the Rosary.’ He created works of art for St. Mel’s Cathedral in Longford, also for St. Jude’s Shrine at Faversham in Kent, England. He produced ‘The Stations of the Cross” in oils on masonite for St. Joseph’s Church in Carrickmacross during 1951, also during 1942 – 1954 at the Church of the Immaculate Conception at Foilmore near Cahairciveen in Co. Kerry. (These illustrations had appeared originally in the 1952 ‘Capuchin Annual’, they were placed in the Church on its opening in Kerry) [vi] Two small windows may be viewed at St. Brendan’s in Birr, Co. Offaly. [vii]
His works in Mayo churches are ‘The Assumption’ (1952),’Stations of the Cross’ (1953) also ‘The Old and New Testaments’ (1964) for the church of Our Lady Help of Christians, Swinford. King’s last stained-glass window in Ireland was ‘I am the Resurrection and the Life’ (1973) for St. Patrick’s Church in Newport, Co. Mayo. On the twenty – fifth anniversary of 1916, King produced an artwork that depicted the figure of Eire as a woman with crown, cloak also Celtic Broach. (26th September 2011) [viii]
King designed twelve stamps for the Irish Government beginning in 1933 for ‘The Holy Year’ that included a stamp to Commemorate the Golden Jubilee of the G.A.A. in 1924, Constitution & St. Patrick in 1937, Four Masters in 1944, Thomas Davis in 1945, Davitt & Parnell stamps in 1946, Four Airmail Issues in 1948 / 49 also James Clarence Mangan in 1949.
He illustrated ‘The Capuchin Annual’ from 1940 to 1972, many of his illustrations feature from 1940. His work is catalogued in the 1975 Annual on pages 205 – 208, article may be viewed on Wikipedia here.
In 1944, the 1/2d also the 1s issues were replaced by the corresponding values of the stamp set printed to commemorate the tercentenary of the death of Mícheál Ó Cléirigh, which were designed by Richard Joseph King and effectively became the definitive versions of these denominations for twenty years according to this article
King exhibited just twice with the RHA during 1945 & 1949. He was a member of the Irish Society of Design and Craftwork. He entered work regularly in the Oireachtas Art Exhibition where he showed for the first time during 1932, then from 1944 to 1946. His subjects were mainly religious, his last entry in 1955 was a ‘Pieta’. He held a one-man exhibition at the Victor Waddington galleries in Dublin during 1948. (Ruth Devine) [ix]
Richard King died on St. Patrick’s Day in 1974 at his home on the Howth Road, in Raheny, Dublin. His widow Alison survived him (she died during 1981). Their three sons; Kenneth, David also Richard became artists.[x] King was interred in Mount Jerome Cemetery. (Shane Mawe 20th January 2016 ) Ruth Sheehy, Librarian in the Department of the History of Art and Architecture
Several informative pieces are included here from Ruth Sheehy’s excellent article in ‘Cathair na Mart’ Journal.which included beautiful illustrations of Richard King’s art.[xi]
King, John James, Census of Ireland 1911, National Archives of Ireland
Richard King’s colleague William Dowling, noted King’s “urge to depict subjects from Celtic mythology… his first was a black and white illustration published in ‘The Capuchin Annual’, and “were of subjects chosen from the ancient stories of our race.” Paintings by Richard King are represented in the Burn’s Library King holdings as well, by an oil portrait of ‘Boston Pilot’ Editor James Jeffrey Roche (1847-1908) plus a watercolour of Roche’s birthplace, Mountmellick, Co. Laois. In 1945 Victor Wallington publishers issued a set of twenty – six original King christmas cards. During 1950, at the installation of three King windows in the James Jeffrey Roche room at Boston College, (now Baptist Library) an exhibition of Richard King’s art was displayed. [xii]
The ‘Queen of Heaven’ was an original, coloured drawing for a stained-glass window, gauche on paper, signed 1950 with lower panel depicted the Angel appearing to Mary for St. Columba’s Church, South Perth, Australia. [xiii] Included in a rare booklet are King’s Art Works commissioned by the author Mons. John T. McMahon. [xiv]
Seventy years after the Kevin Barry Memorial Window was erected in Earlsford Terrace it was moved to a new location at U C D Belfield Dublin on 7th June 2011.[xv]
Richard King was born in Castlebar but grew up in Westport. His stained glass work may be viewed in Newport Church, Tuam Cathedral & Swinford Church. Richard King also designed twelve Commemorative Irish postage stamps between 1933 & 1949. [xvi]
A set of postcards by artist Richard King depicted Saint Brendan, Saint Patrick, Saint Ita, Saint Fiacre, Saint Sennan, Saint Colmcille, Saint Brigid also Saint Laurence O’Toole. The postcards were all of uniform size at 15.5 cm in length by 9.5 cm in width printed on light card. Each one depicted an image of a Saint on one side, with a postcard format on the reverse as well as the name of the Saint plus Richard King the Artist. During his career King’s work was strongly influenced by Christian iconography & symbolism. He also experimented with influences such as cubism plus modernism. This allowed him to develop his own unique artistic identity that is reflected in the postcards. Further information on Richard King may be viewed at the following publications: ‘The Art of Richard King’ Autumn 1995 Sheehy Ruth Nazareth House in Studies: ‘An Irish Quarterly Review’ Vol. 84, No. 335, pages 267 – 277, ‘Hope and Resurrection: The Late Work of Richard J. King’ Sheehy Ruth in Studies: ‘An Irish Quarterly Review’ Winter 1999 Vol. 88, No. 352, Pages 430 – 470 also ‘Dictionary of Irish Artists 20th Century’ 1996 Snoddy Theo Wolfhound Press Dublin. [xvii]
Ruth Devine in this article from October 2009 stated that Richard King a Stained – Glass Artist & Illustrator was son of John James King & Margaret (née Brereton.) King was particularly drawn to religious art, he developed a thorough knowledge of Christian iconography. His famous Four Masters design during 1944 that commemorated the tercentenary of the death of Mícheál Ó Cléirigh (qv), was retained for use in the definitive series until 1969. Following his demise a measure of his popularity was the large number of tributes paid to him in The ‘Capuchin Annual’ 1975, along with a comprehensive list of his work. Her article may be assessed here.
‘After Harry Clarke: the forgotten work of Richard King, Nationalist and Modernist’ Ruth Sheehy penned this article in ‘The Irish Times’ on 22nd June 2020, it included this remark that ‘His stained glass windows in Ireland and overseas, his Stations of the Cross in enamels and his religious illustrations for The Capuchin Annual during the late 1960s and early 1970s, are thus imbued with the uncreated light of God’, see article here
‘The Capuchin Annual’ features several images from various Windows at this link. (Images from The Capuchin Annual are courtesy of The Irish Capuchin Provincial Archives. We also acknowledge Kenneth King (Richard King’s eldest son) who gave permission to reproduce images of his father’s work also Dr. Brian Kirby, Provincial Archivist, Irish Capuchin Provincial Archives for his assistance.) Ruth Sheehy, Librarian in the Department of the History of Art and Architecture: https://www.tcd.ie/library/1916/the-capuchin-annual-and-1916/
Finola on the 27th September 2017 produced this blog on Richard King that included several images of his art in Churches plus a portrait of the artist at this link.
A lifelong friend once described him with this tribute that: “Richard showed great skill with his hands. His home was full of toys and gadgets of various kinds which displayed his precocious ingenuity and talent for improvisation ” this quote can be viewed here.
Richard King was remembered as a “great friend,” “an engaging raconteur,” also “an experienced trout and salmon angler” by friends both among the clergy and outside of it.’ Richard King, a husband to Alison plus father of four children died in Dublin on 17th March 1974 at the age of 64 years according to this finding aid to the Richard King Collection
According to Wikipedia, Rev. Fr. Kevin Hegerty published an article on Richard Joseph King on 19th March 2009 in ‘The Mayo News’ in his Column ‘Second Reading’. (Retrieved 18th December 2015.) [xviii]
An article titled ‘Window redressing’ by Arminta Wallace in the 21st January 2011 issue of ‘The Irish Times’ reported that following the disastrous fire at St. Mel’s Cathedral in Longford that windows installed from Clarke Studios during 1932 were not actually designed by Clarke himself, (who had died of TB in Switzerland during 1931, just short of his 42nd birthday) but by his highly talented younger colleague Richard King. King’s style clearly owed much to Clarke’s tutelage yet his own artistic stamp was very evident. He admired modernist contemporaries such as Evie Hone also Mainie Jellett. He was also well versed in contemporary spirituality, as he drew inspiration from the Scientist – Theologian Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. The full article may be viewed here
Whyte’s Auctions sold Richard King’s ‘Cartoon for Kevin Barry Memorial Window (Patrick Sarsfield)’, c.1932′ in Charcoal for the amount of €3,000 on 22nd March 2021 according to Whyte’s Catalogue
This publication may be of interest: Gordon Bowe, Nicola, ‘The Life and Work of Harry Clarke’ 1994, Irish Academic Press.
[i] ‘The Art of Richard King’ 2009 Sheehy Ruth ‘Cathair na Mart Journal’ Westport Historical Society
[ii] ‘The Art of Richard King’ 2009 Sheehy Ruth ‘Cathair na Mart Journal’ Westport Historical Society
[iii] ‘The Art of Richard King’ 2009 Sheehy Ruth ‘Cathair na Mart Journal’ Westport Historical Society
[iv] ‘The Art of Richard King’ 2009 Sheehy Ruth ‘Cathair na Mart Journal’ Westport Historical Society
[vi] ‘The Art of Richard King’ 2009 Sheehy Ruth ‘Cathair na Mart Journal’ Westport Historical Society
[ix] King Richard https://www.dib.ie/biography/king-richard-a4567 [assessed 9th August 2021]
[x] ‘The Art of Richard King’ 2009 Sheehy Ruth ‘Cathair na Mart Journal’ Westport Historical Society
[xi] The Art of Richard King’ 2009 Sheehy Ruth ‘Cathair na Mart Journal’ Westport Historical Society
[xii] http://www.mayolibrary.ie/en/LocalStudies/MayoPeople/RichardKing [xiii]https://johnjburnslibrary.wordpress.com/2011/09/26/b-c-history-the-splendor-of-form-in-richard-king-stained-glass-windows/
[xvi] Richard King https://www.mayo.ie/discover/local-culture/the-arts [assessed 9th August 2021]
[xvii] A Set of Religious Postcards https://www.museum.ie/en-IE/Collections-Research/Collection/Documentation-Discoveries/Artefact/Set-of-Religious-Postcards-by-Richard-King/53bd2890-d6ec-4edf-b464-ecc7156c000d [assessed 9th August 2021]
[xviii] Richard King https://www.mayonews.ie/comment-opinion/second-reading/22763-richard-king [assessed 9th August 2021]