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'Le Brocquy at 90'
The Irish Times, Leader, November 4, 2006


Photograph © Perry Ogden

Louis le Brocquy, the elder statesman of Irish art, is curently the subject of a number of celebratory exhibitions and events to mark his ninetieth birthday, not only in Ireland but also in Paris and London. The celebrations and accolades have been well-earned after more than seven decades during which this self-taught artist has come to be recognised both at home and internationally as the foremost Irish painter of the 20th century.
It is half a century since he represented Ireland at the Venice Biennale, where he won a major prize for one of his most familiar works, A Family, a key painting in le Brocquy's earlier Cubist style which now hangs in our National Gallery. It was not always so popular or acknowledged as an important work of art. The painter was accused of producing a "diabolical caricature" when it was first put on show in Dublin in the early 1950s; critics of the day found it repugnant and the Municipal Gallery of Modern Art turned it down. It was not the only time that the city disgraced itself in the rejection of significant work of art.
Some measure of the appeal and stature of le Brocquy's work is reflected in the rise and rise of the prices he achieves in the art market - the latest record being for a watercolour at the recent Sotheby's sale of Irish art in London, where three le Brocquy works featured in the top ten prices. He is one of a few Irish artists whose work is represented in the collections of the most prestigious international museums such as the Guggenheim in New York and the Tate in London.
Although probably best known and admired for his paintings, le Brocquy has never been afraid to venture beyond the canvas, The beauty of his vibrant tapestry designs and the intricately-detailed interpretations of the Tåin legend, which he created to accompany the poet Thomas Kinsella's translation of that Irish epic, as well as designs for the stage, have demonstrated his remarkable virtuosity as an artist.
In recent years it has been as the creator of the "heads series" that le Brocquy has received most attention. The pared-down spectral renderings of the human head have become a central motif for the artist. Le Brocquy himself has elequently referred to them as depictions of the isolation of the individual - an exploration that he shares with Beckett. For Many of these paintings he has been drawn to subjects for whom the creative impulse has been at the centre of their lives, fellow artists and writers. His own creative impulses have added uniquely and richly to Irish art. '

'Le Brocquy at 90', Leader, The Irish Times, November 4, 2006

To celebrate the 90th birthday of the acclaimed Irish painter, a special display selected from the artist's own collection of some of his most specially cherished works. There's something reveric and poetic about the entire body of work, as is evidenced by Brocquy's frequent portraits of fellow Irish greats such as Oscar Wilde, WB Yeats and Samuel Beckett. Yet Brocquy's poetry is always rigorously painterly and visual. He never falls off into literary illustration or compositional melodrama. As Francis Bacon once remarked, Brocquy continues to be "obsessed by figuration outside and on the other side of illustration". And there is certainly a thematic otherness haunting all of his painterly and graphic work, whether it be the psychologically incisive portraits, ritualised figure gatherings, lyrical still-lifes or the long series of mist-drenched watercolour landscapes.

Robert Clark, The Guardian, May 6, 2006

'To mark the 90th birthday of Louis le Brocquy, the National Gallery of Ireland is stagging Portrait Heads, a show comprising many of the paintings that have brought him international prestige. Featuring work from public and private collections, it includes images of Picasso, Lorca, Seamus Heaney and WB Yeats, as well as those for which he is best best known, James Joyce and Samuel Beckett. Faces seem to hang suspended, half-emerging, half withdrawing - much like le Brocquy himself, who maintains an air of seclusion while assiduously grooming his career. In 2003, the gallery commissioned a portrait of Bono now in the permanent collection. Le Brocquy admired the singer's "radiant energy", he said.' '

'Richard Clayton previews a blockbusting autumn of visual arts, from Rodin's sexy bodies in London to the magnificent heads of Louis le Brocquy in Dublin. Art special. Autumn's best exhibitions. Legends of the fall'
The Sunday Times, Culture, September 17, 2006

Celebrating the 90th

Events and exhibitions organised in London, Paris and Ireland: National Gallery of Ireland; Tate Britain; Irish Museum of Modern Art; Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane; Crawford Gallery, Cork; Hunt Museum, Limerick; Gimpel Fils, London; Jeanne-Bucher, Paris; Taylor Galleries, Dublin; Fenton Gallery, Cork, etc....


Awarded the Freedom of Dublin City with Poet Thomas Kinsela, 2007
Mary Cloake, Director of the Arts Council, said: " Both men are so very well respected for their work and have received many distinguished awards in the past, it is now right that they are awarded the highest honour their City can bestow”.

Conferred with an Honorary Associate, NCAD, Dublin, 2006
Past honorary university degrees include: Hon. Litt. D., University of Dublin, 1962; Hon. Ll. D., University College, Dublin, 1988; Hon. D. Phil., Dublin City University, 1999; Hon. D. Univ., Queen's University, Belfast 2002; Hon. D. Phil., Dublin Institute of Technology, 2004.

Radio and TV specials

Louis le Brocquy
Rattlebag, RTE1, Monday 28 August 2006
In 1956, Louis le Brocquy was chosen to represent Ireland at the prestigious Venice Biennale. Half a century later, with no less than seven exhibitions of his work opening this year, le Brocquy continues to challenge. His 70 years of creative practice have included collabourations with the likes of Thomas Kinsella, Seamus Heaney and Bono. Ahead of his 90th birthday in November, today's programme is dedicated to the man who has been called the greatest Irish artist of the 20th Century.
Listen to the the special programme

Television documentary: Louis le Brocquy, The Inner Human Reality
Directed by Joe Mulholland, RTE 1, Arts Lives, 21 February 2006, 22.15pmA major documentary was shown on RTE Television in the Arts Lives slot on Tuesday, February 21st on the painter, Louis le Brocquy, who was born in Dublin in 1916 and who, this year, celebrates his ninetieth birthday. Le Brocquy is considered to be one of the greatest Irish living artists and one of the country's great painters of the 20th century. Interest in his work has continued to grow at an unprecedented pace. In 2000, a record price of £1.15 million was paid at Sotheby's in London for one of his major works, Travelling Woman With Newspaper, executed in London in the late forties. His paintings of the heads of great literary and artistic figures such as W.B. Yeats, Samuel Beckett, James Joyce, Pablo Picasso, William Shakespeare, Federico Garcia Lorca and Seamus Heaney are recognised the world over as being a distinctively powerful and significant part of the canon of 20th century art.In the hour-long documentary, produced and directed by prize-winning documentary film maker, Joe Mulholland, the painter talks about his life and work from the time he ran away from his Grandfather's oil business in Harolds Cross at the age of twenty to pursue his interest in painting up to the present time when he is preoccupied with exploring further the human image which has been the dominant theme in his work throughout his illustrious career of more than sixty years.He talks about his stay in Menton in the South of France in the late thirties where he painted "Southern Window", enormously influenced by the French painter, Edouard Manet, now hanging in the Hugh Lane Gallery and about the Dublin he came back to during the War when there was little or no appetite for contemporary art. He talks about the extraordinary influence the renowned London art dealer, Charles Gimpel, who was recuperating in Ireland in 1945 after his stay in Nazi concentration camps, had on his career and about his visit to Spain in 1955 which had a profound influence on the depiction in his work of the human presence. He talks about his meeting the young artist, Anne Madden in London in the fifties, their subsequent marriage and, again, the extraordinary influence this had on his life and work. And, of course, he talks about the crisis in his work at the beginning of the sixties and how a visit to the Musee de l'Homme in Paris and his seeing there ancestral Polynesian heads and, subsequently, his coming into contact with the head in Celtic art led to his painting in watercolour and oils a long series of heads of great literary figures who represented for the artist extraordinary levels of human consciousness which he wanted to try and penetrate.Le Brocquy's work, which has been acquired over the years by galleries in Europe and elsewhere and of which tapestry and book illustration are an important and distinguished part, features extensively in this documentary including "A Family" which was acquired by businessman and Chairman of the National Gallery, Lochlann Quinn, and which now hangs in the National Gallery of Ireland. Even though it was conceived in the pessimistic climate of the fifties with the Cold War and the post-World War II social and economic upheaval, far removed from the France of the 19th century, Le Brocquy speaks about the influence of Manet's great painting, Olympia on this work. He talks about his disappointment at the rejection, shortly after its execution more than half a century ago, of the work shortly after its execution by the Advisory Committee to the Municipal Gallery in Dublin headed by the artist, Sean Keating, who judged contemporary art at the time to be offensive and incompetent and a betrayal of academic values in art including his own.Coming to the present, his painting, recently commissioned by the National Gallery of Ireland and now hanging in the National Portrait Gallery, of his friend, the lead singer of the rock band, U2, Bono, whom the artist holds in high esteem, also features.Those interviewed are the Nobel laureate, Seamus Heaney, Rene Gimpel, Lochlann Quinn and the Director Emeritus of the Guggenheim Foundation n New York, Dr. Thomas Messer.

Exhibition programme celebrating the artist's 90th year

Louis le Brocquy and his Masters. Early Heroes Later Homage
Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane
14 January - 30 March 2007

Louis le Brocquy: A celebration of the artist's ninetieth year.
Crawford Art Gallery, Cork
9 January 2007 - 12 February 2007

Louis le Brocquy. Homage to his Masters
New Paintings
Gimpel Fils, London
24 November 2006 - 13 January 2007

Louis le Brocquy, thirteen silkscreen editions
Fenton Gallery, Cork
10 November - 2 December 2006

Marking the artist's ninetieth birthday
Tate Britain
6 - 22 November 2006

Louis le Brocquy. Portrait Heads
A celebration of the artist's ninetieth year
National Gallery of Ireland
4 November 2006 - 14 January 2007

Louis le Brocquy, Rétrospective à l´occasion de son 90ème anniversaire
Galerie Jeanne-Bucher, Paris
13 October - 10 November 2006
(Some works will also be available on the booth of the gallery at
FIAC - Grand Palais, Booth A73, Paris, 25 - 30 October 2006

Louis le Brocquy. Allegory and Legend
Hunt Museum, Limerick
16 June - 18 September 2006

Louis le Brocquy: A celebration of the artist's ninetieth year.
Irish Museum of Modern Art
9 May 2006 - 7 January 2007

Louis le Brocquy, thirteen silkscreen editions
Taylor Galleries, Dublin
30 March - 22 April 2006

Louis le Brocquy
Selected work from the Irish Museum of Modern Art Collection
IMMA National Programme
Cill Rialaig Arts Centre, Ballinskelligs, Kerry
27 January - 28 February