Filter This collection: Patrick Pollen Collection

  • Title: Patrick Pollen Collection
  • Reference Code: IE/NIVAL 147899
  • Level of Description: Collection
  • Creation Dates: [1934 - 1988]
  • Extent And Medium: Approx. 160 individual items including sketch designs, paintings, documents, photographs, and newspaper clippings amassed by the artist.
  • Creators:
  • Repository: NIVAL

Scope and Content

Patrick Pollen (1928-2010) was undoubtedly one of Ireland’s most significant stained glass artists of the second half of the twentieth century, following in the tradition of his mentor, Evie Hone, before establishing a distinct style of his own. The children of Patrick Pollen gifted an important donation of work by their father; the deposit arrived some years apart in two tranches, the first has been fully catalogued and is available for consultation, and the second tranche has yet to be formally catalogued but is outlined.

About the Artist
Patrick Pollen was born in London in 1928 into an artistic and devout Catholic
family with significant Irish connections. Perhaps most notable among his antecedents
was his great-grandfather, John Hungerford Pollen, an Anglican priest
who converted to Roman Catholicism and became—at the request of Cardinal
Newman—Professor of Fine Arts at the Catholic University of Ireland, and who
is perhaps best remembered in Dublin for his work designing and decorating
University Church on St Stephen’s Green in the Byzantine revival style embellished
with different Irish marbles.
Pollen’s father, Arthur, was a sculptor and his mother, Daphne (née Baring,
daughter of Lord Revelstoke of Lambay Island) was a portraitist and muralist,
and Patrick was their second child. Until the outbreak of war in 1939, London
was the Pollen family’s base though they spent as much of the year as they could
on Lambay Castle in the 15th-century castle which Edwin Lutyens had remodeled.
Lambay remained a lifelong place of respite for Patrick Pollen, his siblings,
and their children.
After national service in the Army, Pollen spent two years studying painting at
the Slade (which his mother had attended) and then proceeded to the famous
Académie Julian art school in Paris; while in France he was particularly struck by
the stained glass in the cathedrals of Notre Dame and Chartres. A pivotal experience
occurred in 1952 when he was twenty-four years old; his father took him to
view Evie Hone’s nine-light ‘Crucifixion and Last Supper’ window in Eton College
chapel shortly after its installation, and upon seeing it he declared: “That’s
what I want to do.” Later that year he traveled to Dublin to study with Evie Hone
and, on her advice, rented a small area off the main studio of the long-established
An Túr Gloine (Tower of Glass) studio in Upper Pembroke Street which had by
then ceased to be a co-opeartive and was now run by artist/craftsperson Catherine
O’Brien, assisted by the long-serving glazier, Peter Connolly.
The first work to bring Pollen to public attention was a memorial window, ‘The
Transfiguration’ erected to the memory of the fifth Earl of Rosslyn, which was
exhibited in Dublin before being installed in the crypt of Rosslyn Chapel, near
Edinburgh, in 1954. It clearly shows the influence of Hone, though sadly she was
to die the following year at a comparatively young age. She left Pollen her collection
of brushes, tools and stock of stained glass.
Throughout the mid 1950s Pollen received various commissions, often for quite
modestly proportioned windows in Ireland and England until his main breakthrough
in terms of scale (covering 5,500 square feet) and quantity (thirty-two
very large windows) came in 1957 when he was commissioned to provide stained
glass for the new Roman Catholic Cathedral in Johannesburg. This commission
was to occupy him for two years. His panels of scenes from the Gospels, including
Pentecost, the Assumption, and Christ the King, are set around the sanctuary
and high on the nave walls in concrete frames surrounded by smaller panels of
coloured glass. Midway through the commission the studio was destroyed by fire
though was subsequently rebuilt.
In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Pollen executed a number of commissions for
prominent English churches, including a three-light depicting English martyrs
for the Jesuit fathers in Farm Street, Mayfair, London (where Evie Hone had previously
worked) and the Brompton Oratory, among others.
From 1960 he began to receive regular commissions for windows in Ireland,
including for Glenstall Abbey in County Limerick, and for distinctly modern
churches such as those by the pioneering architect, Liam McCormack, at Millford
and Murlog, both in County Donegal. Like all good stained glass artists his
work was always sensitive to the style of architecture which his windows were
destined for. He was also now consistently receiving commissions for distinctly
Irish subjects; whether they be local saints or his highly regarded treatment of
the text of ‘St Patrick’s Breastplate’ at Murlog.
In 1963 Catherine O’Brien died and Pollen acquired An Túr Gloine. The same
year he married the sculptor Nell Murphy from County Wexford; she also had a
keen interest in religious art and not only did they often share studio space but
on occasion their work can be found in the same church. In 1964 he commemorated
Catherine O’Brien with a small ‘St Luke’ window in Dublin’s Christchurch
Cathedral. The following year, when Peter Connolly died Pollen erected a purpose-
built studio beside the house in Churchtown/Dundrum where he and his
family lived.
During the mid 1960s the commission which took up most of his time was for
a series of sixteen windows and two mosaics (‘Crucifixion’ and ‘St Joseph the
Worker’) for the newly constructed Catholic Cathedral in Galway.
Although he continued to work during the 1970s on commissions such as his
three-light ‘Creation’ (1975) window for the Catholic Church at Ramelton, commissions
were becoming more difficult to obtain and consideration was given to
emigrating. In 1981 Pollen, his wife and five children moved to Winston Salem,
North Carolina to persue his stained glass career there. He secured some commissions
such as those for Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church in Winston-Salem
but regretably regular commissions were not forthcoming. Pollen’s last major
work was in 1981, an impressive memorial to soldiers of Irish regiments killed
in the First and Second World Wars for St Anne’s Cathedral, Belfast. This largely
abstract square window, comprising nine panels, was made at Caldermac Studios,
In 1997 Patrick Pollen returned to Ireland and after spending some time in Lambay
(where he had previously created a small window for the chapel), he and his
wife settled in her home county of Wexford. In latter years they enjoyed touring
Ireland viewing the windows which he had made many decades earlier. He died
in November 2010.

Dr. David Caron, 2017.