Artists in the Collection

Evie Hone

Born 1894, Dublin, Ireland
Died 1955, Dublin, Ireland

Eva (Evie) Sydney Hone (1894-1955), artist and craftswoman; was born at Roebuck Grove, Mount Merrion, Dublin on the 22 April 1894. Hone was the daughter of Joseph Hone, a successful distiller who founded the firm Minch and Co., and was a director of the Bank of Ireland. The family lineage included the artists Nathaniel Hone the Elder (1718-84) and Nathaniel Hone the Younger (1831-1917). Her mother was the daughter of Sir Henry Robinson, a prominent lawyer. In 1905, Hone suffered partial paralysis after a fall while decorating her local church for Easter. Semi-invalid, her childhood was one of prolonged medical treatment and of visits to England, France, and Italy with her governess. In 1911 she was deeply impressed by a visit to Assisi, which fostered her profound interest in Art and the Christian faith.

Hone was determined to become an artist. She trained in London at the Westminster School of Art under Byam Shaw, Walter Sickert, and then with Bernard Meninsky. In 1920 she took Meninsky’s advice to travel to Paris, where she joined her lifelong friend Mainie Jellett as a pupil of André Lhôte. There they mastered the principles of cubism. In 1921 they persuaded Albert Gleizes to take them as pupils, working with him intermittently until 1931. He was absorbed in purely abstract painting and mural decoration. He was a cubist and an ardent evangelist, organising its first exhibiting centre and writing its first treatises. During these years Hone’s work was published in the journals of Abstraction-Création.

In 1924, Hone and Jellett held a joint exhibition at the Dublin Painters’ Gallery. Their paintings were almost indistinguishable from each other. The works were described by critics as ‘Cubist’ and ‘in the modern manner’, and there can be no doubt that Hone and Jellett were the pioneers of abstract painting in Ireland. They revolutionised thinking about art. In November 1925 Hone had been considering religious life and entered an Anglican convent in Truro, Cornwall. Although the nuns of this convent were sympathetic to Hone’s talent, they regarded it as a distraction and prohibited her from painting until she became a “sister if she does become one”. Hone remained in Truro for about a year, and decided to leave the convent and resume painting. She had further exhibitions in Paris in 1925; with the Seven and Five Society, London during 1926-7 and in a solo exhibition in Dublin in 1929.

In the 1931 Dublin painters exhibition, Hone began to develop a more lively and figurative style, which was also brighter in colour. During this time Ireland had the need of religious art and attempts had been made by academic artists, to deal with the great themes of Christian art. A stained glass art movement was inaugurated at the turn of the century by the protestant painter Sarah Purser and by the Catholic writer Edward Martyn. The stained glass windows of Chartres Cathedral and the work of George Rouault stimulated Hone’s interest in this art form. Other influences were the medieval Irish carvings and the Italian primitives, as well as the glass of her French contemporaries, which she saw on regular visits to the Continent. She was encouraged by the artist Wilhelmina Geddes to experiment with glass. Roland Holst, the Director of the Ryksakadamine in Amsterdam, a famous teacher and a celebrated stained glass artist, was impressed with Hone’s work.

In 1933 she joined ‘An Túr Gloine’, the studio run by Sarah Pursur. Hone’s colleague at the studio, Michael Healy, taught her the finer points of the craft of stained glass, and soon he had the reputation for exciting design and excellent technique. She would work with the glazier Thomas Kinsella, until his death in 1953. There she introduced a new, expressionist intensity into stained glass. In 1937 Hone converted to Catholicism and was accepted into the Roman Catholic Church by her friend and mentor, John Charles McQuaid who was the archbishop of Dublin. Her work became more religious in character. Her first commission consisted of three small panels, The Annunciation, for the Protestant church of St Naithi’s in Dundrum, Co. Dublin. In 1938 she was commissioned by the Department of Industry and Commerce in Dublin to design a window for the Irish Pavilion at the New York World’s Fair of 1939. The result was a large upright rectangular window on the theme of the four provinces of Ireland, My Four Green Fields, which was a great success.

From 1944 all her windows were produced in a studio beside here residence, the Dower House, Marlay Grange, Rathfarnham, Co. Dublin. During the 1940s Hone received commissions to design windows for churches in Ireland and England. It was at Marlay that she completed her finest series of full-scale windows: for the Jesuit chapel at Tullabeg, Rahan, Co. Offaly (1946); for University Hall Chapel, Hatch Street, Dublin (1947); for St Mary’s Church, Kingscourt, Co. Cavan (1947-48). It was Hone’s design for the east window of Eton College Chapel that brought her international recognition and ranked her among the best stained glass artist of her time. The huge window was commissioned to replace one that was destroyed in a German bombing raid in 1941. Hone began the task in 1949 and the window was erected in 1952. It is divided into large areas, the Crucifixion in the upper space with symbols of the Resurrection and Christ Miracles, and below it the Last Supper flanked by Melchizedek and the sacrifice of Isaac. Hone’s design process was lengthy and arduous. Before making the cartons she drew a preliminary sketch and several scale studies. She insisted on executing a number of the sections several times until she felt the window reached her own high standards. A short film, Hallowed Fire, recorded Hone completing the window. She also completed windows for Farm Street Jesuit Church, London and the new national Cathedral of Washington D.C. which was built in the Gothic style.

In 1948 Hone went on an extended tour in Central Italy ending in a short visit to Ravenna. The Italian journey was symptomatic of a change already apparent in her work from which an original Gothic hardness of outline was disappearing. Hone had a growing interest in mosaic was heightened in Rome and Ravenna. This interest was arisen through her acquaintance with Boris Anrep.

Evie Hone produced over 150 small stained-glass panels and a number of oils and watercolours. Her art belongs to the medieval tradition of stained glass, with its strong coloration, heavy symbolism and brilliant technique. Hone’s work is seen to bridge the arts and crafts movement of Michael Healy, and Wilhemina Geddes and painters, such as Patrick Pye and Patrick Pollen, who were deeply influenced by her work. In 1943, she was one of the founding members of the Irish Exhibition of Living Art. Hone died while attending mass in her parish church on 13 March 1955. She was buried at St Maelrun’s Church, Rathfarnham, near Dublin, on 15 March. Today her work is on display in Churches and museums in Ireland, England and America.