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1952-53. Aubusson: Tabard Frères & Soeurs
Establishes studio, 3 Albert Studios, Battersea (Spring 1952). Meets Jean Lurçat (1892-1966), the guiding reformist in modern tapestry design (summer 1952). Lurçat's perfecting of the system of tons comptés, together with Francois Tabard - integrating the work of designer and weaver - leads le Brocquy to adapt his early small-scale flat (gouache) cartoons into full-scale numbered cartoons, woven by Tabard Frères & Soeurs in editions of nine (inclusive of the Edinburgh weavings). The artist writes: 'To Lurçat relation is paramount. His individual expression of it is perhaps the most personal of his great contributions to contemporary tapestry. Sitting in my London studio recently he enlarged on this theme, carefullydiscovering the small, golden reflections and broken shadows which his glass of Irish whiskey cast around it. Books, table, papers, trouser leg, even the rush matting on the floor, were decorated by its presence, proclaiming for him the woven interdependence of all things. This, his central conviction, Lurçat has extended to the analysis of his medium. His rejection of the painted cartoon in favour of a full-scale linear cartoon, directly indicating each woven transition of colour and tone; his selection of a simple range or gamme of standardised and numbered woollen dyeings; his indication of these coloured wools on his cartoon by means of their numbers; his choice of coarse and lively wools; his re-introduction of the visibly large warp; all of these technical decisions sprang from a passionate belief in the wholeness of concept and execution.'106 Le Brocquy's numbered cartoons are in turn adapted into the 'colour-inverted' cartoons. The artist notes: 'In Dublin during the early Forties, I became interested in the emotional effect of colour, particularly in the relationship of the chromatic scale to the twelve subdivisions of the primary colours, red, yellow and blue ... At the time I was also excited by the dramatic effect caused by the visual inversion of both colour and tone. I then noted: "Further to the emotional character of single and interrelated colour, lies the magic of colour inversion. Staring fixedly at a colour or colours, the saturated eye - shifting to a white surface - precisely inverts those colours both in hue and tonally. A retinal 'memory' emerges inverted, an entirely new perception as contrary as night from day". Some years later in London I designed a number of tapestries for Tabard Frères & Soeurs, Aubusson ... But further to these first cartoons, my excitement regarding the drama of colour-inversion encouraged me to indicate at the time second versions of these linear cartoons, inverted both in colour and tone.'107 The tapestries Irish Tinkers (1948), Garlanded Goat (1949-50), Allegory (1950), Adam and Eve in the Garden (1951-52), Cherub (1952), Eden (1952), establish le Brocquy's ongoing association with the well-known region of Aubusson. The critic Edward Sheehy writes: 'Le Brocquy's designs are among the best of their kind I have seen, not excepting those of Lurçat. Garlanded Goat, with its formal dignityand subtle harmony of colour, should find a place in one of our public buildings; though perhaps the authorities might fear the implication that the animal should be adopted as a national emblem ... Unlike most Irish painters, he is the reverse of facile invention; or perhaps it would be more true to say that he has elected to concentrate on the realisation of particular themes, to realise, through means that approach the formality of abstraction, what are finally purely human values. Boy with Flowers, or Child, show him the master of a type of formal simplification which still retains a sense of innocence and wonder.'108 In 1953, the artist's paintings of children give rise to a growing body of work. Following Child with a Toy Moon (1951) and Child with Flowers (1951), entered in Tendances de la Peinture Britanique Contemporaine, Galerie de France, Paris (October 1952), paints Adolescent (1953), Child Sleeping (1953), Child and Dog in a Room (1953), Child in a Dark Room (1953), Child in a Yard (1954; Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane). Alistair Smith remarks: 'Ensuing works show children alone in interiors, whose space is difficult to discern - an unfathomable, directionless environment. They gaze full-face from the canvas, confronting the spectator like saints in Byzantine mosaics, achieving an intensification of the sacerdotal atmosphere of the Families.'109 Acknowledging that children have always tended to enter his paintings, the artist explains: 'What fascinates me about the child, though, is a certain primitive quality. I have often wondered if one could see human beings more clearly stripped back to Palaeolithic circumstance. Since that is not possible, then perhaps children may provide us with some insight into our original depths ... I am thinking of the child's transparence. In his imaginative little book The Inheritors, William Golding evokes early palaeolithic Man. In Lord of the Flies he perceives, in a contemporary group of children, much the same condition.'110 Le Brocquy's recurrent images of children depicted in isolation will culminate the following year in Child with Flowers (1954), Child in a Spring Field (1954), Tired Child (1954; Ulster Museum), Child Alone (1954). Work included alongside Bacon, Leger, Sutherland, Marini, Moore, in Collectors Choice, Gimpel Fils (August 1953), Terrence Mullaly writes in The Arts News and Review: I found Louis le Brocquy's Man Writing, one of the most compelling pictures in the whole exhibition and it is also of particular interest, as it is a recent work and represents a break with the style still generally associated with him ... The Man Writing makes it perfectly clear that le Brocquy has made great advances, it is disturbing, yet poignant.'111
106 Louis le Brocquy, 'Thoughts on our Time and Jean Lurçat', Ark 17 (London: Royal College of Art, 1956) . Reproduced in exhibition catalogue Louis le Brocquy, Seven Tapestries 1948-1955 (Dublin: Dawson Gallery; Beffast: Ulster Museum 1967) and Louis le Brocquy, Aubusson Tapestries (Dublin: Taylor Galleries 2000; Agnews, London May, 2001).
107 Le Brocquy, 'Artist 's Note', exhibition catalogue Louis le Brocquy, Seven Tapestries 1948-1955 (Dublin: Dawson Gallery; Beffast: Ulster Museum 1967) and Louis le Brocquy, Aubusson Tapestries (Dublin: Taylor Galleries, November 1999; Agnew's, London, May, 2001).
108 Edward Sheehy, 'Paintings and Tapestries by Louis le Brocquy. The Victor Waddington Galleries', Dublin Magazine (March 1952).
109 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. 33.
110 Statement made to the editor, March 2005.
111 Terence Mullaly, 'Gimpel Fils', The Arts News and Review (London, August 1953).
Adam and Eve in the Garden colour-inverted
1951-52, Aubusson tapestry, 140 x 275 cm
Atelier René Duché, edition 9
Child in a Yard, 1953
oil on canvas, 132 x 96.5 cm
Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane