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1973-74. Cúchulainn tapestries (c.1973-2000)
The artist resumes his collaboration with the French tapestry region of Aubusson. Following the large-scale Hosting of the Táin (1970; Irish Museum of Modern Art), conceives seven smaller tapestries displaying similar motifs of unsymmetrical oval heads. Designs Cúchulainn I (1973; 180 x 233 cm: multicolour on white), Cúchulainn II (1973; 180 x 233 cm: multicolour on black), Cúchulainn III (1973; 180 x 180 cm: rose on white), Cúchulainn IV (1973; 180 x 180 cm: brown on gold), Cúchulainn V (1973; 180 x 140 cm: multicolour on white, first proof woven by Manufactura de Tapeçarias de Portalegre, Portugal), and Cúchulainn VI (1977; 180 x 180 cm: multicolour on moving grey ground, woven by Tabard Frères & Soeurs, Aubusson). According to Dorothy Walker: 'One of the tapestries, Men of Connacht (1973; 180 x 233 cm: black & grey on white ground), composed of rows of black heads casting a grey shadow behind them, achieves an effect like the traditional "lace" stone-wall of Connemara. It recalls the legend of a king who shared the Celtic identification of the stone boss with the head, to the extent of attacking a stone wall under the illusion (admittedly cast by a spell) that he was dealing with upstanding warriors.'195 Exhibition at the Dawson Gallery, Dublin (May 1973); McClelland Galleries, Belfast (June 1973): The Táin Tapestries. Dorothy Walker observes: 'In these tapestries, le Brocquy has achieved a masterly conjunction of several elements: his own and the Celtic concern for the head image, the narrative content of the epic, deploying the staying power of myth, and the visual and architectural demands of a large woven wall hanging.'196 On the 1st of January 1973, the Republic of Ireland, Denmark and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland join the European Community. The occasion is marked by the issue of a special postage stamp adapted from le Brocquy's multi-coloured Tain designs (1973; EEC series, denominations: 6p, 12p). This is the third stamp design by the artist to date. The first, the Europa stamp, is selected through an international competition and adopted by 18 countries (1970; featuring a flaming sun in the form of a woven fabric, the twenty-four interlaced strands representing the members of CEPT). The second, the 1972 stamp for Ireland honoring World Health Day (denominations: 12 pence, 2,5 pence, featuring a gunmetal silver and metalic gold heart). Subsequent designs include a special issue to mark the bicentenary of the American Declaration of Independence in 1976 (denominations: 7 pence, 8 pence); the 1977 Contemporary Irish Art Series featuring le Brocquy's painting Masked Head (denomination: 15p), and the 1983 Irish Europa series featuring megalithic spirals celebrating the Newgrange winter solstice (denomination 26p). Exhibition at the Fondation Maeght, St. Paul (March 1973): Le Brocquy, sixty-five works, including Femme (1959, A.R. 20, Tate Gallery), Entremont (1968; A.R. 219, Fondation Maeght), Visage (1971; A.R. 296, Colombe D'Or, St. Paul), Study after Velasquez (1971; A.R. 295). Nice Matin writes (trans.): 'A visionary expressionist painter, le Brocquy transforms his canvas into a matrix and man himself into a solitary being in perpetual formation. Simultaneously in life, in death. This Irish artist, now living in Carros with his wife, also a painter, exhibits sixty-four of his most recent works in the galleries of the Fondation Maeght, Saint Paul-de-Vence until April 8th. For those who have followed the evolution of le Brocquy's work, they marvellously demonstrate his mastering of influences absorbed by him; Spanish painting with its greys and whites, the influence of Bacon also in the precision of his draughtsmanship. But this exhibition above all reveals the originality of le Brocquy the solitary man, this painter of the interior world of feeling. When he is no longer inspired by mankind he works on that which lies beyond - a surrealist contemplating an orange, a lemon, an apple.'197 According to Dorothy Walker: 'These, again, consisted of single images, a single lemon, a single orange, almost sculptural in their intense concentration on the small tight isolated form, what Jacques Dupin called "a slow coagulation of space". Rilke's line comes to mind: "There is utter darkness in the inside of an apple"; one could say that Louis le Brocquy's art brings that darkness out into the light without disrupting the form of the fruit, while simultaneously conveying its inner presence and presenting the fruit as a distilled presence of vivid colour, drawing into itself its knot of "quidditas".'198 The Fondation Maeght will prove a stimulating working environment for the artist, particularly in the field of print-making. Produces seven colour etchings published by Maeght Editeur, first exhibitited at the Dawson Gallery, Dublin (October 1974): Louis le Brocquy, Seven Colour Etchings, including Lemon, No Lemon, Image in Darkness, Mycenaean Gold Mask, Head and Handprint. Death of the artist's mother, Sybil (September 1973). In June 1976, the year of the artisit's father's death, the President of Ireland, Cearbhall O Dálaigh, unveils in her honour the restored Rutland Memorial Fountain in Merrion Square, Dublin, in tribute to her contribution to life, literature and the arts. Exhibition at Gimpel Fils, London (October 1974); Galleria La Bussola, Torino (November 1974): Louis le Brocquy, seventy-six works, including Distant Head (1973; A.R. 338), Remembered Head (1974; A.R. 367), Masked Head (1974; A.R. 346). Max Wykes-Joyce writes in the International Herald Tribune: 'There is nothing finer, nor yet more terrible, than the human visage. For a decade and more Louis le Brocquy has been preoccupied with the human face, which emerges from the pure even backgrounds of his large paintings with compelling presence and a ferocious immediacy.'199 Assessing the artist prior to the advent of his celebrated portrait heads of literary and artistic figures, Dorothy Walker writes in Hibernia: 'He emerges with a form of art which is, I think, unique in the world of art at present. While classical in terms of brush-stroke oil painting, it is beyond the avant-garde in terms of social concern, and is of the immense over-riding concern for the anguish of the individual.'200
195 Dorothy Walker, Louis le Brocquy (Dublin: Ward River Press 1981; London: Hodder & Stoughton 1982), p. 52.
196 Dorothy Walker, 'Louis le Brocquy', exhibition catalogue, Six Artists From Ireland, (Dublin: Arts Council/An Chomhairle Ealaíon, Cultural Relations Committee Deptartment Foreign Affaires, European tour, 1983), p. 36.
197 A.S., 'L'exposition Le Brocquy: angoisse et silence', Nice Matin (March 10, 1973).
198 Dorothy Walker, Louis le Brocquy (Dublin: Ward River Press 1981; London: Hodder & Stoughton 1982), p. 55.
199 Max Wykes-Joyce, 'Around European Galleries', International Herald Tribune (London, Paris, October 5, 1974).
200 Dorothy Walker, 'Le Brocquy at the Fondation Maeght', Hibernia (Dublin, April 13, 1973), p. 24.
Cúchulainn VI, 1977
Aubusson tapestry, 182 x 182 cm
Atelier Tabard Frères et Soeurs, edition 9
.Men of Connacht, 1973
Aubusson tapestry, 180 x 233 cm
Atelier Tabard Frères et Soeurs, edition 9