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Golden wedding anniversay, April 2008
Ireland's best-known artist couple celebrate 50th wedding anniverasy
Anne & Louis le Brocquy, Dublin, 2006. Photograph © Amelia Stein
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Artists Anne Madden and Louis le Brocquy celebrate their golden wedding anniversary. Married at Chartres Cathedral on April 8, 1958 (Chelsea Registry, London, March 31,1958), they first met in London in November 1956, thereafter sharing numerous studios in London, Bargemont, Préverenge, and Carros in the foothills of Nice.
Anne Madden will become a lifelong ever-present inspiration for the artist Louis le Brocquy: "For many years we worked together in the same studio where Anne, beyond her own painting became my third eye, my muse."1 As early as 1957 the artist will paint the first of a long series of works inspired by her, Young Woman, Anne (1957; A.R. 0020). The work is regarded as seminal in le Brocquy's oeuvre and belongs to a notable series of white-on-white compositions. Caoimhín Mac Giolla Léith notes: 'The title refers to le Brocquy's wife, the painter Anne Madden, who was seriously injured in a riding accident in the mid-1950s and had to undergo a series of painful operations on her spine. Le Brocquy remembers "being filled with an irrational anger at the aggressive implications of this surgical carpentry" and goes on to note that, quite apart from his personal feelings of anger, the spine literally continued to form the backbone of the 'Presences.'2 According to Alistair Smith: 'The fact that the painting mimicked the visual circumstances of the artist's life is important, but more important, if less tangible, were the emotions of the situation - the natural anxieties, apprehensions of mortality ... The voluptuous aspect of the female torsos, and the fact that wounding (as in surgery) is part of their subject matter, is clearly the result of the powerful mechanism of sublimation. Despite the origin of the work in his personal life, le Brocquy was alive to the more universal aspect of what was forming on his canvas ... His paintings quickly came to form a far more generalised statement on humanity, both male and female, both palpable and ethereal.'3
In December 1967, in face of the tragic death of his wife's sister and brother-in-Law in an air crash over the Andes in Chile, le Brocquy will paint a series of works on dark backgrounds, including Young Woman with Cut Flowers (1967-70; A.R. 240), Woman Grieving (1967; A.R. 198), and Image of Anne, study in absence (1967; A.R. 197). These powerful evocations of death in turn revived the deep impact made on the artist by the Celto-Ligurian vestiges at Entremont near Aix-en-Provence, culminating in the large-scale Stele: Hommage à Entremont (1968; A.R. 219, Fondation Maeght, St Paul).
In the early 1970's le Brocquy will again turn to Anne Madden in a series of portrait heads, many of which will be completed twenty-five years later. This series will anticipate the celebrated 'heads' devoted to literary figures and fellow artists which le Brocquy commenced in 1975, including W.B. Yeats, James Joyce and his friends Samuel Beckett, Francis Bacon, Seamus Heaney and Bono. The painting Image of Anne (1974, A.R.581) will be included in Louis le Brocquy. Portrait Heads: A celebration of the artist's 90th birthday, National Gallery of Ireland, 4 November - 13 January 2007 - the first ever exhibition held by this institution of a living artist.
Since 2000, the couple have returned to live and work in Dublin, where Anne Madden held a lifetime retrospective at the Irish Musem of Modern Art in 2007. They have two children, Alexis (b. 1961) and Pierre (b.1963).
Other artist couples include: Elaine and Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner, Ben Nicholson and Barbara Hepworth, Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, Christo and Jeanne-Claude, Jean Arp and Sophie Taeuber-Arp, Sonia and Robert Delaunay, Dorothy Dehner and David Smith.
1 Louis le Brocquy, interview, Anne Madden. Painter and Muse, television documentary directed by Bill Hughes, Mind the Gap Productions, 2005.
2 Caoimhín Mac Giolla Léith, 'The Human Image Paintings of Louis le Brocquy', notes, 2003.
3 Alistair Smith, 'Louis le Brocquy: On the Spiritual in Art', exhibition catalogue Louis le Brocquy, Paintings 1939 - 1996, (Dublin: Irish Museum of Modern Art, October 1996 - February 1997), p. 16.