Cill Rialaig, Ballinskelligs, Co Kerry
This exhibition explores the work of the highly-regarded Irish artist Louis le Brocquy and includes works in various media – works on paper, paintings and tapestries. Le Brocquy is best known for his series of Head themes that he has drawn upon since the 1960s, examining individual personality and broader concepts of identity through long series of semi-abstracted portraits. Many of his portraits are of Irish writers and his interest in literature in Shakespeare Head, Image of Seamus Heaney and Shadows, which documents Joyces’s Dublin, is evident.
A Picnic is an important early work in which le Brocquy combines the influence of Degas with his own preoccupation with the human body as a reflector of the sitter’s inner state. A Picnic is thus a significant precursor of le Brocquy’s later explorations of the human psyche in such bodies of work as the previously mentioned Head paintings and the portrait studies of WB Yeats, James Joyce and others. The deliberately reduced palette in this painting also anticipate the minimalism of le Brocquy’s later paintings. This work, innovative in its psychological insight, was one of a group of paintings that paved the way for the establishment in 1943 in the exhibition of the Irish Exhibition of Living Art.
The tapestries on view – Chariots, Cúchulainn Mounting into his Chariot and Hurling – are part of a cycle of twenty pieces illustrating the Irish legend The Táin. The tapestries, donated in 2001, grew out of le Brocquy’s remarkable set of illustrations for the translation of the Táin by the poet Thomas Kinsella. The heroic story of the war between Ulster and the men of Connaught over the famous brown bull of Cooley is perfectly visualised by le Brocquy in his ink-drawings and again in the tapestries that developed from them. Le Brocquy and his well-known predecessor Jean Lurçat were landmark figures in the revitalisation of tapestry as an artform.
Louis Le Brocquy was born in Dublin in 1916, and is one of Ireland’s most important living artist. His career has spanned over sixty years and he represented Ireland at the 1956 Venice Biennale. The last two decades have seen solo museum exhibitions in Spain, France, the United States, Australia, Japan and Mexico, as well as a major retrospective at the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, in 1996.
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