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1961-63. Les Combes
Establishes house and studio, Carros, Alpes Maritimes (May 1961). Anne Madden recounts: 'During our first year at Les Combes we worked in separate rooms in the house, until we built the studio in 1962. We chose the site with Michael Scott, near the house, overlooking olive terraces. His partner Ronnie Tallon, designed a beautiful space in shuttered concrete and glass ... We were able to give each other stringent criticism of a creative kind. Francis Bacon often reiterated our luck in this respect. He himself "longed" for such an other.'146 Exhibition at Gimpel Fils, London (September 1961): Paintings & Watercolour, forty six works, including Head (1961; w1), Being (1961; w3), Torso (1961; w9). Herbert Read writes in the catalogue preface: 'This painter from Joyce's Dublin did seem, when I first met him in 1944 to have some qualities of Celtic Origin. His images might have been found in a crock of gold, and both Yeats the poet and his brother the painter might have been among his ancestors. But since then le Brocquy's art has become emancipated from provincial myth and is now both independent and universal. He lives in the South of France, but he is a painter of the inner world of feeling, and has become most curiously original. His work (as perhaps all original work) reconciles two opposed principles, which I will tentatively call innocence and experience ... Always (in spite of their superficial abstraction) figurative in intention, the images are in fact human and corporal ... but recorded so discretely that the full force of the erotic imagery is only revealed to quiet contemplation ... there can be no doubt that after many patient years of research this painter has found the irreducible symbols for what is basic to the life of the spirit, those principals we personify as Eros and Thanatos.'147 Paints Isolated Being (1962; A.R. 99, Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane), recording a central figure emerging from a blue backgroud. Dorothy Walker observes: 'In these "presences", the artist occasionally tried to break away into colour, but invariably he seemed drawn back to white, to his own version of that white-on-white which has been so important in twentieth-century art, from Malevich's square to Ben Nicholson's important series of white reliefs in the nineteen-thirties. Le Brocquy's white-on-white "presences" continued to convey his insights into the individual's inner reality and isolation.147bis The artist notes: 'I have experienced one colourful period during the late 1940's, as well as a number of colour backgrounds towards the end of the Presence period. Isolated Being is an example of the latter. It is also an example of the semi-autonomous nature of painting itself, emerging - as it does - within its own instinctive logic. At a certain point in its development, I felt the need to turn the painting literally upside down before I could discover the image that eventually emerged.'148 According to Bruce Arnold: 'His Isolated Being sums up the highly tentative nature of any artist's attempt to capture the total essence of human personality. It rejects the straightforward physical appearance of one human being as exclusive of any universal idea of humanity. In this respect it is important that le Brocquy has consistently avoided portrait painting, in spite of an early competence, and the fact that the human form has always been the basic subject of his work.'149 Exhibition at the Dawson Gallery, Dublin, (June 1962): Le Brocquy. Oil paintings, thirty one works, including Vital Torso (1962; A.R. 90, Trinity College, Dublin), Study of Boys Head (1962; A.R. 87, Butler Gallery, Kilkenny). The Irish Times writes: 'The exhibition at the Dawson Gallery is something more than the first showing of a new collection. It is the first time for many years that Louis le Brocquy has had a one-man show in Dublin. London and many other Continental cities have seen his development in a way denied to us at home, In the interim he has been accorded many honours, and was the only Irishman included at the 50 Years of Modern Art in Brussels ... The paintings presented to the public today, bring the pale blue of the Mediterranean; the violent red of the mistral, or the delicate yellow of the morning. Against surfaces of incredible smoothness, and in which these colours still suggest the virgin purity of his stunningly-white pictures, we see a new range of human figures beautifully outlined. Inside, these are penetrated with various colour harmonies which seem to reach down into the being of the portrayed. Mr. le Brocquy has altered the direction of the portrait painter who uses the outline and the touch to recreate the delicacy of character. He has turned the mind of the viewer from the external to a consciousness of inner feeling.'150 Conferred Hon. Litt. D., University of Dublin (1962). Work included in British Art Today; San Francisco Museum of Art, US tour (1963), British Painting in the Sixties, Contemporary Art Society, Tate Gallery, London (June 1963), Painter's Carpets, Institute of Contemporary Art, London (May 1962). Designs the large-scale tapestries Figures in Procession (1963), tufted by V'soske Joyce, Oughterard, Co. Galway, and Brendan the Navigator (1963-64), woven by Tabard Frères et Soeurs, Aubusson, for P. J. Carroll Group Dublin [Today hanging in UCD, Michael Smurfit School of Business, Dublin]. The latter adapts the continuous strip design of Bayeux tapestry to an idiom invoking early Christian carvings and Celtic manuscripts. A synopsis of the legend by Sybil le Brocquy is published on the occasion of the tapestry's unveiling by Taoiseach Sean Lemass. Birth of son Pierre (London, August 1963). Paints The Kennedy Trilogy (1963; A.R. 104), Reflection on Mourning, Central Thought on an Assassination and Reflection on Grief. The painting coincides with an important development about to take place in the artist's work following a period of profound dissatisfaction in which the artist destroys forty-three paintings, virtually the years output (December 1963). Anne Madden recounts: 'That blight most dreaded by the artist had crept into him - the loss of inspiration. He had painted himself to a standstill. The paintings he had made appeared to him lifeless, contrived and without meaning, and at the end of the year he did away with them. He felt depressed, powerless.'151 Le Brocquy himself explains: 'Is it not the struggle of Jacob and the angel ? - the absolute commitment of the painter to his material, in which he can be almost destroyed by his material, defeated ... Sometimes the painter breaks away from the struggle and comes away with nothing. Those are the moments when the work, which is a record of the struggle, is destroyed by the artist, rejected.'152 The crisis will lead to the emergence of the Head series to become an enduring preoccupation over the next four decades.
146 Anne Madden le Brocquy, Louis le Brocquy: A Painter Seeing his Way (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan, 1994), p. 139-40.
147 Herbert Read, introduction, exhibition catalogue Louis le Brocquy (London: Gimpel Fils, September 12, 1961). p. 1. Published in Herbert Read 'Louis le Brocquy', A Letter to a Young Painter (London: Thames & Hudson 1962). p. 136-38.
147bis Dorothy Walker, 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. 92.
148 Statement made to the editor, November 2004.
149 Bruce Arnold, Irish Art, a concise history - revised edition (London: Thames and Hudson, 1977).
150 J. W., 'Louis le Brocquy Exhibits Recent Paintings', The Irish Times (Dublin, June 21, 1962).
151 Anne Madden le Brocquy, Louis le Brocquy: A Painter Seeing his Way (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan, 1994), p. 144.
152 Harriet Cooke, 'Harriet Cooke Talks to Louis le Brocquy', The Irish Times (Dublin, May 25, 1973).
Isolated Being, 1962
oil on canvas, 152.3 x 91.5 cm, AR99.
Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane