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Táin tapestries (1969-99)



The artist turns momentarily to tapestry design (1998), adapting The Táin lithographic illustrations for Thomas Kinsella's celebrated translation of the Irish epic An Táin Bó Cuailnge: 'Translating the Táin into tapestry was yet another great experience' le Brocquy says, 'for here the original drawings were faithfully transformed, not only in scale, but into the very different medium of woven tapestry, further extending within its own tactile nature something of the sweep, violence and passion of the epic.'
Commenting these works the Irish Museum of Modern Art notes: 'The Táin Tapestries, which must rank among the best-known artworks ever created in this country, have very generously been donated by Dublin businessman Brian Timmons under the Heritage Donations Act ... The tapestries are based on le Brocquy’s inspired illustrations for the 1969 translation by poet Thomas Kinsella of the pre-Christian Irish epic An Táin Bó Cuailnge, which recounted the legendary battle fought by queen Medb and the men of Connaught against Cúchulainn, over the brown bull of Cooley. In creating the illustrations le Brocquy was mindful that “any descriptive precision in the depiction of Medb, Cúchulainn or a first century charioteer would disturb their imaginative reality.” To capture the necessary energy without distracting detail le Brocquy developed his now-famous “blot” technique. This provided the perfect solution to the artist search for “a non-figurative figuration”. Following the success of the publication, le Brocquy made designs for a set of tapestries using some of the original images. In this he was returning to a fruitful field of collaboration dating back to the late 1940s and his work with the well-known firm of weavers, Tabard Frères et Soeurs in Aubusson, France. Twenty images from the publication were chosen to highlight the most crucial moments in the story and translated by le Brocquy into cartoons which the weaver, or lissier, works from. The first translation of the 1969 cartoons into tapestries was begun in 1998 and completed in 2000 at Atelier René Duche, Meilleur Ouvrier de France, Aubusson. Although limited to two colours, the tapestries encompass an extraordinary range of nuance and subtlety, brought about by the careful blending of cotton and wool threads and the mixture of bleached, unbleached and natural white fibres, contrasted by black and grey ones. This, and the textured cutting of threads, resulted in a subtle “marbled” effect, a technique mastered by only a few weavers at Aubusson.