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Louis le Brocquy paints Bono into National Gallery Portrait Collection

Photograph 2003 © Perry Ogden

Le Brocquy commission for Ireland's National Gallery Portrait Collection.

The National Gallery of Ireland has unveiled its specially commissioned oil portrait of Bono of the rock-group U2, by Ireland's most important living painter, Louis le Brocquy. The painting, entitled Image of Bono, is the fifth in a series of portraits commissioned for the Irish National Portrait Collection. It will be on display to the public from October 21, 2003.

The portrait is not only the most important commission yet for the Irish National Portrait Collection, but represents a remarkable crystallisation of contemporary Irish culture. Le Brocquy's work has defined Irish painting since the 1950s, while Bono is arguably the world's best-known citizen of Ireland. The two men are friends and have been admirers of each other's work for many years.

Referring to his work, Louis le Brocquy says: 'In the past, I have painted an extensive series of interiorised head images of artists such as Samuel Beckett and Francis Bacon, WB Yeats and Seamus Heaney whom I see as extraordinary instances of human consciousness. In more recent years, I have made a number of similar studies of Bono, whose spirit and whose radiant enery I admire so much. But a painting destined for the National Portrait Gallery presents a different chalenge; to make a recognisable image of Bono's outward appearance, while attempting to portray what I conceive to be the wavelengths of his inner dynamism.'

The National Portrait Collection has been a feature of the National Gallery of Ireland since its foundation in 1884. It was taken off display in the 1970's, but has now been reinvigorated with the support of Irish Life and Permanent plc.:
Irish Life & Permanent National Portrait Gallery.

Images of the painting and other press images will be available from the National Gallery of Ireland Press Office from October 21.
Valerie Keogh (NGI press office) at +353 1 6633598 or press@ngi.ie


Le Brocquy to paint 'devoted friend' Bono
John Burns, The Sunday Times, 2 March 2003

IRELAND'S leading modern artist, Louis le Brocquy, has been commissioned by the National Gallery to paint a portrait of Bono.The U2 singer has agreed to be the subject for the 86-year old artist, who is famous for his series of portraits of famous Irish writers such as William Butler Yeats, Samuel Beckett and James Joyce. The work will hang in the National Gallery as part of a portrait collection sponsored by Irish Life & Permanent.The painting will require no efforts on Bono's behalf - le Brocquy works from photographs. In an interview with The Sunday Times, the artist said: "I have never wanted anyone to sit for me. Their physical presence would only mislead me from any attempt to reach a little beyond mere appearance, to discover something of that invisible reality we all know to exist within."What I like is to strew a good number of different photographs of the subject around the easel and then see what emerges."
Le Brocquy will get a contribution from the sponsors, but not the commercial rate. His best works fetch prices of more than £1m. In may 2000, Sotheby's sold his travelling Woman with Newspaper for £1.15m, which was then the highest sum ever achieved by a living Irish artist. Loachlann Quinn spent 1.7m for A Family, which has since been donated to the National Gallery.
Bono and Le Brocquy have been friends for years, having first met at the opening of an Amnesty International office in Dublin in January 1986.
"Bono and Ali (his wife) became our friends and we have remained devoted to both of them ever since," Le Brocquy said. "It must be 14 years since I painted a number of heads of Bono in watercolour. Later I felt able to work on a large oil. Why was I drawn to do this? Well, quite simply, because of my ever-growing admiration for him and for his mind and spirit."
Asked if he had any early ideas for the new portrait, le Brocquy said: "As in my heads of Beckett or Bacon, I would like to paint an image of Bono that can emerge almost autonomously and surprise me with discovery"

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