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


1958-59. France


Marriage to Anne Madden, Chelsea Registry Office, London (March 1958), Chartres Cathedral (April 1958). Sets up house and studio in Bargemon, France, relocating during the summer months to a nearby broken-down water-mill. Anne Madden recalls: 'We sought the warm climate of the Mediterranean on the advise of the surgeons who had operated on my spine and after our marriage, almost alone, in the Gothic splendour of Chartres Cathedral in France filled with the sound of Bach played on the great organ, we made our way south. First to the Var. ... The first-floor earthen terrace with its fig tree and falling caper plant overlooked the tenth-century ramparts of this hill village and the watery valley below.'133 The nearby river Artuby provides the sand occasionally incorporated in the work. The artist notes: 'I was learning to realise in contemporary terms, including the use of texture, something of the essential feelings I had about the inhabited human body. These works were perhaps the nearest I ever got to abstraction.'134 According to Pierre Rouve: 'What the artist will borrow from Art Brute, is a technique, not an aesthetic - and what may seem a surrender to blind matter becomes a victory of lucid vision.'135 Paints Ecce Homo (1958; A.R. 03), one of a rare series of male figures, erected in heavy titanium white impasto mixed with river sand. Caoimhín Mac Giolla Léith observes: [Ecce Homo] is an important work that reflects both le Brocquy's particular personal concerns during the late '50s and the more general cultural context in which it was produced, a context within which, for example, French existentialism exerted a powerful influence. This distended, wraith-like figure, at once graceful and constrained, owes something to Giacometti. The shadowy head, shoulders andupper arms of this archetypal man, whom we are invited to behold, appear to exist on a different plane (above? beyond? behind?) to that of the craggy encrustations of pigment in which the torso is partly encased. The alternate use of thinned-out strokes of gray paint alongside thick, almost concrete-like lumps of white, with the occasional smear of yellow and crimson, suggests a distinction between an elusive and ethereal spirit and a decidedly earth-bound body. Yet the criss-crossing swathes of paint that extend the lower torso toward the bottom of the picture, which vaguely resemble intertwined cords of thick rope, suggest that these two aspects of an individual's being are nevertheless inextricably bound one to the other in splendid isolation from the rest of the world.'136 Paints Woman (1959; A.R. 20, Tate Gallery), epitomizing his vision of shadow in La Mancha. Alistair Smith remarks: 'The revelation was not only of a physical shadow but of a shadow presence similar to that postulated by Carl Gustave Jung, for whom it acted as a contrast to the persona, or visible, "public" self. The incorporation of this awareness into his work came to be central to le Brocquy ... In the thought of Carl Gustave Jung (which is basic to an understanding of le Brocquy), the artist plays an important part, for it is he who leaves himself most open to ideas which originate in his unconscious.'137 According to Tadayasu Sakai, Director, Kamakura Museum of Modern Art: 'The aim of these works is not to represent the physical appearance as well as possible. It is literally to make spirit visible, to evoke a kind of spiritual experience.'138 Exhibition at Gimpel Fils, London (November 1959): Paintings, forty five works, including Recumbent Woman (1958; A.R. 11, Ulster Museum), White Form (1959; A.R. 36), Big Torso (1959; A.R. 37). John Russell writes in The Sunday Times: 'One may wonder, for instance, what Lane, so quick to take fire at the work of J. B. Yeats, would have made of his fellow-Irishman, Mr. Louis le Brocquy, whose new paintings have sold very well at Gimpel Fils ... The contrast between the surrounding ice-pack, with all its associations of purity and sanctity, and the mysterious and disquieting vertical form has become, if anything still more dextrous; and in those passages which relate to the procedures of "informal" painting the economy and sheer address of the textures remind us that Mr. le Brocquy lives in France, not in England, and has none of our national weakness for the amateur. The monotony of much of the picture-surface has within it, as the painter himself admits, an element of risk; but when the contrasting incident finally arrives it makes its effect with an admirable sureness.'139


133 Anne Madden le Brocquy, transcript from Portrait of Louis le Brocquy, Joe Mulholland, Dir. (Dublin: RTE 2005) [&] Anne Madden le Brocquy Louis le Brocquy: A Painter Seeing his Way (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan, 1994), p. 120.
134 Louis le Brocquy quoted, Anne Madden le Brocquy, Louis le Brocquy: A Painter Seeing his Way (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan, 1994), p. 127.
135 Pierre Rouve, 'Post Brutism', Art News and Review (London, March 2, 1957).
136 Caoimhín Mac Giolla Léith, 'The Human Image Paintings of Louis le Brocquy', 2003.
137 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. 13.
138 Tadayasu Sakai, 'Notes for a Discussion of Louis le Brocquy', exhibition catalogue Images Single and Multiple 1957 - 1990 (Kamakura: Museum of Modern Art, Kanagawa, January 5 - 3 February, 1991. Osaka: Itami City Museum of Art, Hyogo, February 9 - 31 March 1991. Hiroshima: City Museum of Contemporary Art, April 6 - 12 May 1991), p. 100.
139 John Russell, 'The Loss of Lane', The Sunday Times (London, November 15, 1959).


Woman, 1959
oil on canvas, 94 x 74 cm, AR20
Tate Collection.
Photograph courtesy Tate Picture Library






Being, 1959
oil on canvas, 76 x 64 cm, AR23