Louis le Brocquy: Portrait Heads

'Louis le Brocquy Portrait Heads'. (Exhibition poster)

Louis le Brocquy: Portrait Heads.
A celebration of the artist’s ninetieth birthday
4th November 2006 - 14th January 2007

As a contribution to the many events held this year celebrating Louis le Brocquy's ninetieth birthday, the National Gallery of Ireland presented an exhibition selected by Pierre le Brocquy from private and public collections in Ireland and abroad. They featured images of well-known personalities, among them William Butler Yeats, James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, Francis Bacon, Federico Garcia Lorca and Picasso.

Included in the display were three studies of Yeats (1975, 1976); two studies of Joyce (1977, 1978), and four of Beckett (1979, 1989 and 1994). Of his numerous studies of Yeats and Joyce, Louis has said: "I have sought to bring their spirits back from the place into which they have faded not exactly as an archaeologist searching for traces of them but more as an alchemist rebuilding 'those ancient glittering eyes."

The exhibition was not solely confined to images of literary figures but fellow painters as well such as Pablo Picasso, whose portrait was commissioned from the artist in 1983 by the Musée Picasso in Antibes, and a portrait of Francis Bacon who was the subject of a series of images painted by le Brocquy over a twenty-year period from 1979.

In his introductory essay in the accompanying book, Colm Tóbín, said: "le Brocquy paints images of the head in the time when the face, in all its uneasy beauty and energy and singularity, outstares the skull and seems to contain within itself what le Brocquy calls 'the everlasting night of the stars' and what Yeats, in turn, called: 'All that man is, All mere complexities, The fury and the mire of human veins.' "

In her essay titled, "Behind the Billowing Curtain of the Face'': Louis le Brocquy's Portrait heads, Dr. Síghle Bhreathnach-Lynch explored the artist's approach and methods of painting each of his subjects. On le Brocquy's studies of WB Yeats, she says: "It was as if he had unconsciously captured individual facets of the complex personality and character of Yeats, rather than producing a conclusive 'whole'. He now became aware that a true representation of a sitter cannot be seized in one permanent, stable image no matter how great the skill of the artist."

Louis le Brocquy: Portrait Heads
A celebration of the artist’s ninetieth birthday
© Text 2006 National Gallery of Ireland and the Authors
Editor Pierre le Brocquy