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The Táin. Chinese edition

The Táin, Thomas Kinsella, trans., Dolmen Edition IX (Dublin: Dolmen Press, 1969). See books illustrated
The Táin (London: Oxford University Press), 37th re-edition to date.

Foreign editions
Der Rinderraub, Susanne Schaup, translator (Heimeran Verlag, Munich/Rütten & Loening, Berlin, 1976)
La Razzia, Jean-Philippe Imbert, translator (Tours: Alfil Editions, 1996)
El Táin, Pura López Colomé, translator (Mexico: Smurfit Group, 2001)

Chinese version, Cao Bo, translator (Beijing: Hunan Education Press & Yingpan Brother Publishing Co., Ltd, 2008)

In 1967 the artist is commissioned by the publisher Liam Miller to illustrate Thomas Kinsella's inspired version of The Táin Bó Cuailnge, the dramatic record of Ireland's proto-historic past. Ailbhe Ní Bhriain notes: 'The Táin Bó Cuailnge - táin, meaning the gathering of people for a cattle raid - is a prose epic with verse passages and forms the centrepiece of the cycle of Ulster heroic stories. It tells of the exploits of King Conchobar and his chief warrior Cúchulainn ("The Hound of Ulster") and of the invasion of Ulster by Queen Medb of Connacht in an attempt to capture the Brown Bull of Cuailgne. Dating as far back as the twelfth century in manuscript form, this legend has been treated both academically by scholars and linguists and romantically by such Revival writers as Yeats and Lady Gregory. The Dolmen Edition of the saga was to give, in Kinsella's words, the first "living version of the story", a version true to its blunt and brutal Gaelic character.' Paints several hundred calligraphic brush drawings over a period of six months. The artist notes: 'Any graphic accompaniment to a story which owes its existence to the memory and concern of a people over some twelve hundred years, should decently be as impersonal as possible. The illustrations of early Celtic manuscripts express not personality but temperament. They provide not graphic comment on the text but an extension of it. Their means are not available to us today - either temperamentally or technically - but certain lessons may be learned from them relevant to the present work. In particular they suggest that graphic images, if any, should grow spontaneously and even physically from the matter of the printed text. If these images - these marks in printer's ink - form an extension to Kinsella's Táin, they are a humble one. It is as shadows thrown by the text that they derive their substance.' The illustrations will establish le Brocquy's reputation as an intrepretive draftman of considerable originality. Thomas Kinsella will give this assessment of his collaborator: 'There are certain staying qualities that help an artist to major achievement. The gift of concentration is one (in the sense of economy as well as of intensity), and so is steady energy. Le Brocquy has these qualities to a degree unique among Irish painters or designers since the death of Jack B. Yeats. He also has that individual force, stemming from tireless curiosity, which gives coherence to a career - the kind of force that insists on artistic growth, or change, and ensures that any stimulus, however seemingly random, finds a central response.'

1969, publication of The Tain, The Dolmen Press, Dublin. Widely acknowledged as the great Irish Livre d'Artiste of the twentieth century, Seamus Heaney writes in The Listener: 'The book is illustrated lavishly and magnificently by Louis le Brocquy: "marks in printer's ink", he calls his contribution, "shadows thrown bt the text". Sometimes they are runs, sometimes a rush of brush strokes, sometimes a tall totem in the margin. The remote significance of the story, the bold vigour among the ranks of heroes and the wily, sexual presence of the woman are continuously insinuated by the graphic commentary. Altogether the poetry, painting and printing make this an important book, the fulfilment of a publishing dream.'179 le Brocquy's illustrations receive critical acclaim for their level of interplay with Kinsella's writing. According to Aidan Dunne: 'The brush drawings merged seamlessly with the text; stark, fluent images, they expressed with great economy of means an epic breadth, evoking the mouvement of vast masses of people. Individual participants in the drama were also pulled into close focus. To achieve this, le Brocquy developed his brilliant idiom of calligraphic illustration ... Le Brocquy's achievement lies in having absorbed the general technical possibilities and harnessed them to his own specific ends, and, in the process, having managed to break new ground. The Táin drawings managed a well-nigh perfect marriage of text and image, and their impact was considerable.'

The Táin lithographs
The Táin chronology 1967
The Tain chronology 1969