exhibition programme | paintings | tapestries | prints | chronology of a life | market | biography & bibliography | agents | news | contact


Tinker period (c.1945-48)


Encounters the 'Tinkers' near Tullamore, Co. Offaly (August 1945). The vitality, mystery and wildness of these travelling people is admired by le Brocquy: 'Most of all I was impressed by their insistence on freedom - freedom from every external regulation - observing only their own tribal rules, their tradition. Not, perhaps, altogether unlike the independence of the artist within society.'60 Described as the once-dispossessed people of confiscations wandering without security of land, Earnán O'Malley remarks: 'They are lithe and hardy, sharp in feature, and capable of sudden calls on endurance from their uncertain way of life in a difficult climate. With them primitive emotions are easily aroused and expressed; their woman drink and fight as readily as their men, and bear children without halting the day's journey. Their aloofness, intractability, and fierce independence interested le Brocquy. They are, he could see, outside of the closely organised life of the parish unit, looked on with mistrust and suspicion ... They become a symbol of the individual as opposed to organised, settled society ... For the creative worker they could represent the artist who deals in the unexpected and the unrecognised and who suffuses with meaning familiar things.'61 Armed with bicycle and sketchbook, the artist produces swiftly executed life-sketches depicting their unruly way of life. The art critic Dorothy Walker notes: 'He got on well with them because he was different from them and did not attempt to identify with them, because they were in fact extremely jealous of their own identity, of their own language shelta, a form of Irish, and of their own esoteric practices.'62 The artist explains: 'Faced with Cromwell's choice to Hell or Connaught, the forebears of the travelling people took a third way. They took to the road. In time they became the road - that which lies outside the security of settled society - their wild nature as defiantly distinct as that of a tiger.'63 According to Alistair Smith: 'Le Brocquy's interest in the travelling way of being, like Synge's before him, is to be seen in the context of the century's "discovery" of so-called "primitives", or, rather, of societies where there still exist languages and customs which have not been eroded by modern society.'64 Embarks on the 'Tinker period' (c.1945-48), the largest distinguishable body of work to date.