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1986-87. Dubliners


Commissioned by Liam Miller, completes ninety calligraphic brush drawings for James Joyce's Dubliners. Published by The Dolmen Press, Dublin, 1986, the edition is originally envisaged by Kevin M. Cahill, President General, American Irish Historical Society, New York. Encouragement is provided by Stephen J. Joyce to whose sympathetic approval the book owes its existence. The artist notes: 'The Táin drawings. are unique in my work in discovering a purely calligraphic interpretation of the heroic fantasy of the epic, completely free of any descriptive drawing. James Joyces Dubliners was quite a different matter, involving the precise nature and appearance of Dublin life at the turn of the century. Again the illustrations throughout are inblack but here they are drawn with the rough sliver of bambou I carved for myself.'262 The artist's illustrations are admired by Samuel Beckett who requests the artist's collaboration on Stirrings Still, his valedictory work published in 1988 by Barney Rosset and John Calder. Exhibition at the Taylor Galleries, Dublin (November 1986): Shadows, portfolio of twenty-two lithographs selected from le Brocquy's illustrations of Joyce's Dublin, including Quays, Dodder Bank, Street houses, Kingstown, Sackville Street, St George's church, Kings Inns, Tenement Door, Grattan Bridge, Davey Byrne's, Ballast Office, General Post Office, The Pillar, Suburban Door, Liffey Chapelizod, College of Surgeons, Swans Chapelizod, The Castle, Ballast Office Clock, Dublin rooftops in snow, Goldsmith, T.C.D., Four Courts. Aidan Dunne writes: 'In making his illustrations, he has returned to the fluid, calligraphic style he developed for The Tain, and, as he makes clear, to the same spirit that inspired that style. "Drawings should be induced to grow spontaneously and even physically - marks in printer's ink - from the matter of the text itself. Here again, I hope, it is as shadows thrown by the text that they derive their substance." (It is worth remembering that le Brocquy is not only one of the smartest painters Ireland has produced, he is also one of the most eloquent, adept at articulating the conceptual basis of his art as well as describing its practical details.) In The Táin, the painter saw a distillation of a nation's historical experience, something approaching a repository of race memory, and his style sought to reflect the democratic breadth of the saga, letting everyman have his day in the neutral anonymity of his figure drawings. He sees Dubliners in terms as broad: "the essence of a people, distilled from the intimate life and history of a city." In this he is undoubtedly invoking Dublin's unique status as more than a city, as a state of mind, or a state of the mind, the place celebratedand reinvented by Joyce inexile.'263 Assessing le Brocquy's illustrations to date, Ailbhe Ní Bhriain observes: 'By 1967, the year in which Liam Miller commissioned drawings for The Tain, le Brocquy had already illustrated two books: Austin Clarke's Poetry in Modern Ireland (1954) and J. J. Campbell's Legends of Ireland (1955). He had also worked once with the Dolmen Press: he designed the head and tail piece for Donagh MacDonagh's broadside Love Duet (1951) ... Following the publication of The Tåin in 1969, leBrocquy illustrated six books, all of which form a coherent body of work. For Liam Miller and the Imprint Society in 1970, le Brocquy depicted characters from J. M. Synge's The Playboy of the Western World as "masks." These six faces, each distinguished by a vivid combination of two colours, resemble the vividly colored heads in The Hosting of the Táin tapestry, as in the case of Orange Mask for the Widow Quinn. Le Brocquy again turned to ink brush drawing in 1977 for the Dolmen Edition of Desmond O'Grady's The Gododdin, a series of poems adapted from the Welsh telling of the annihilation of the Gododdin tribe; these drawings use variations of the raven symbol from The Tain. In 1979, Le Brocquy illustrated Seamus Heaney's Ugolino, translated from Dante's Inferno, which can be linked both to Kinsella's The Tain and O'Grady's The Gododdin, for all deal with ancient myths, feuds, and themes that "mesh with and house the equivalent destructive energies at work, say, in contemporary Belfast." ... The "Troubles" find direct expression in le Brocquy's cover design for Kevin Cahill's Irish Essays (1980), a proposal of possible solutions for the situation in Northern Ireland. There the artist depicts two groups of people, in the style of the Tain battle scene converging to represent a single society. In 1981, le Brocquy produced a series of lithographs portraying eight Irish writers - including James Joyce - published by Andrew Carpenter as a portfolio of unbound images. In one of the very last Dolmen Editions, le Brocquy illustrated Joyce's Dubliners.'264 Preview of the documentary Louis le Brocquy. An other Way of Knowing, directed by Michael Garvey, National Gallery of Ireland (November 1986). Broadcasted on the occasion of the artist's 70th birthday (RTE, 10 November), Frazer Macmillan writes in The Sunday Independent: 'Ireland's "travellers" may not be the most likely source of reference on the background of an outstanding - in global terms - painter, but as a programme being screened tomorrow evening will show, more than a few of them are likely to know the name Louis le Brocquy. Today the Dublin-born artist's work is on view in such exotic climes as Florence, Washington, Antibes, San Diego, Zurich and Bahia. It was, however, the stark contrast of tinker camp sites in rural Ireland that first launched him on a career that, in three decades, was to propel him to international prominence ... (the) kaleidoscope of his endeavours that have encompassed graphics, stage settings and fabric and tapestry design as well as painting, will include a glimpse back to the period when he became known as one of the early champions of the travellers ... The painter is a travelling man himself - of a different kind - dividing his year between France and Ireland in the company of his wife Anne Madden, herself a painter of note. They have their studio in the South of France, but 'home' is here, in Dublin and West Cork.'265


262 Louis le Brocquy, 'Artist's Note', Dubliners (Mountrath, Co. Laois: The Dolmen Press 1986). Paperback (Oxford/New York: O.U.P. 1972 - 2002).
263 Aidan Dunne, 'Le Brocquy's Joyce's Dubliners', ILS (Dublin, Spring 1988), p. 13.
264 Ailbhe Ní Bhriain, 'Le Livre d'Artiste: Louis le Brocquy and The Tain (1969)' New Hibernia Review, 5.1 (2001).
265 Frazer Macmillan, 'A brush with the travelling people', Sunday Independent (Dublin, November 9, 1986).





Two Gallants, Dubliners
The Dolmen Press, Dublin, 1986






The Bording House, Dubliners
The Dolmen Press, Dublin, 1986