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Departure from Bargemon following the collapse of the water-mill studio. Sets up house and studio in Préverenge by lake Geneva (Winter 1960). Anne Madden recounts: 'After the bitter disappointment and realisation that we would have to find somewhere else to live, we made a serious search at the beginning of 1960 and eventually discovered Les Combes: a simple villa, dated on the keystone of the doorway 1839, built on millennial olive terraces sloping into a valley in the hills behind Nice.'140 Pursues work on the Presence paintings while embarking on a series of anonymous head studies. Caoimhín Mac Giolla Léith notes: 'Both Torso (1959) and Head (1960; A.R. 66) are examples of an extremely reductive attitude to the imagethat stresses the 'palpable nature' of the paint. In the first of these paintings a centrally located, largely inchoate human torso is transfixed in the glare of a brilliant, unworldly light. It struggles to achieve or maintain a worldly fleshiness that would allow its spirit to body forth, allowing us to register fully its mundane particularity. Head (1960) reminds us that this double movement of emergence from and recession into a bright, unfathomable ground is not exclusive to le Brocquy's depiction of the human torso. As would soon become apparent, this strategy would be no less evident in the numerous paintings of individual heads that le Brocquy was to paint from the mid-1960s on. In fact, the artist himself tends to play down the distinction between these two bodies of work, preferring to see body and head as functioning synecdochically as "alternative images of the whole in the part'', stressing that in both instances he is attempting "to paint some sort of image of the mysterious state of conscious being". The undeniable formal similarity between these two works serves to underline this clear continuity of concerns.'141 Exhibition, Esther Robles Gallery, Los Angeles (May 1960): Paintings, eleven works, including Reclining Figure (1958; A.R. 19), Spinal Form (1959; A.R. 35). Included in the Guggenheim International Award Exhibition, New York, Guggenheim Museum (June 1960); New Europeans, Houston Contemporary Arts Museum; Fort Worth, Contemporary Art Museum, Texas (1960). Paints Young Woman Washing (1960; A.R. 69) and Study of a Girls Head (1960; A.R. 62), suggesting intimations of the interior being referred to by J. P. Wilhelm as le Brocquy's 'intuition ultra-lucide du corps humain.'142 Focusing on a form of cenesthesia, Caoimhín Mac Giolla Léith remarks: 'Both works depict an imaginative cross-section of parts of the human body allowing us to view an array of fantasized inner organs. Le Brocquy has long been fascinated with the possibility of delving beneath the superficialities of outward appearance in order to represent something of the feeling within the being. He occasionally uses the term "chakra", originally from the Sanskrit word denoting a discus or mystic circle, which in yogic thinking refers to each of the centres of spiritual power in the human body ... As le Brocquy puts it, they represent "something not immediately visible which goes on within and is important and mysterious, as is all vitality"... Study of a Girl's Head to some extent anticipates the more categorical turn toward the human head in le Brocquy's painting a few years later. He has noted of this particular painting that 'quite a lot is going on, transparently, within the skull.' Both this painting and Woman Washing might be usefully compared to another work, also produced in 1960, Fallen Man, which is painted in a very similar style. The title 'Fallen Man' suggests both a physical fall and a fall from moral or spiritual grace, though le Brocquy has insisted that his interest in the subject was primarily as an image of the "interiorised experience of catastrophe". In all three works, however, the sense of an image gradually forming itself through the process of painting takes precedence over any notion of the image as a conscious illustration of a pre-existing idea or feeling.'143 Paints Head and Horizon (1960; A.R. 53, Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane), The artist explains: 'When I began to paint this work I had no such image in mind. Vaguely I envisaged a big head form in space. As the painting progressed it gradually assumed a disturbing aspect. In recent years I was tempted to replace the word Horizon by William Blake's "Urizen", the embodiment of Isaac Newton's laws of physics, fiercely rejected by Blake in favour of his own world of art and imagination. Yet the great physicist, Erwin Schrödinger, believed that both art and science are conceived by the selfsame faculty of the imagination. I agree with Schrödinger, but nevertheless I feel bound to ask myself whether Blake's fearful distrust of rational science might not finally be justified in face of the danger of uncontrolled nuclear fission to our historic culture and to our very lives.'144 Exhibition at Galerie Charles Leinhard, Zürich (January 1961): Louis le Brocquy, twenty-two works, including Standing Figure (1960; A.R. 68), Young Woman Washing (1960; A.R. 69), Woman (1960; A.R. 70). The critic Robert Melville writes in the catalogue preface: 'When le Brocquy was listed in "50 Ans d'Art Moderne", at the Brussels World Fair, as "Expressionist-Realist" ... it was an acknowledgement of his distrust of the self-sufficiency of paint. But he was represented by work painted before he embarked upon his white series, and it is my guess that the organisers associated the element of physical cubism, which is to be found in these painters, with a social-realist purpose. Such a label would have little bearing on le Brocquy's work ... le Brocquy has not programmed his (present) venture. He says only that he is striving to produce "a substantial identity of surface and image', that his white surface is a "matrix within which the central image may be realised and held" ... By adumbrating a human presence in his magic substance, le Brocquy seems to me to be challenging the now almost universally held belief that the concept of man in harmony with himself is spurious. le Brocquy's paintings have helped me to realise that when Malevich said "I wish to be the maker of the new sign of my inner movement, for in me is the path of the world", it was much more than "avant-garde" effervescence, and that such a claim would be understood by, say Erwin Schrödinger who has pointed out that consciousness is a singular of which the plural is unknown, and that what seems to be a plurality, is merely a series of different aspects of this one thing. Le Brocquy's vision of human presence in an infinite, undivided substance is an insight of the same order.'145 The artist prepares to leave Switzerland for France. Birth of son, Alexis (London, February 1961).
140 Anne Madden le Brocquy, Louis le Brocquy: A Painter Seeing his Way (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan, 1994), p. 128-29.
141 Caoimhín Mac Giolla Léith, 'The Human Image Paintings of Louis le Brocquy', notes, 2003.
142 J. P. Wilhelm, Anne Madden le Brocquy, Louis le Brocquy: A Painter Seeing his Way (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan, 1994), p. 46.
143 Caoimhín Mac Giolla Léith, 'The Human Image Paintings of Louis le Brocquy', notes, 2003.
144 Statement made to the editor, March 2005.
145 Robert Melville, extract from the exhibition catalogue preface Louis le Brocquy (Zurich: Galerie Leinhard, January 1961).
Study of a Girl, 1960
oil on canvas, 76 x 64 cm, AR62
Young Woman Washing, 1960
oil on canvas, 120 x 90 cm, AR69