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Louis le Brocquy HEAD
Lot 17
Price Realised: €38,000
Estimate: €40,000 - €60,000
Louis le Brocquy HRHA, Irish, 1916-2012 HEAD (1971) Oil on canvas, 40" x 40" (101.5 x 101.5cm), signed and dated '71, Opus No. 265. Provenance: Gimple Fils Gallery, London (label verso) Exhibited: Salon des Realites Nouvelles, Paris, ... Read more
Louis le Brocquy HRHA, Irish, 1916-2012 HEAD (1971) Oil on canvas, 40" x 40" (101.5 x 101.5cm), signed and dated '71, Opus No. 265. Provenance: Gimple Fils Gallery, London (label verso) Exhibited: Salon des Realites Nouvelles, Paris, 5 April - 20 May 1973. The mid-'sixties marked a pivotal change in le Brocquy's work, propelled by his visit in 1964 to the Musee de l'Homme, where the artist saw ancestral Polynesian clay skull heads with cowrie shells for eyes. These heads were remarkably similar to ancient Celtic images, where the head was the embodiment of the human being. This sparked an interest in Celtic art and culture, with le Brocquy being drawn to the Celtic idea of the head as a magic box that contains the spirit. In Dorothy Walker's 1981 biography of le Brocquy, she quoted the artist: "For over fifteen years I have tried to draw from the depths of paper, or from the white canvas, a human face." He went on to explain that the aim was "…to make visible, a lurking image, to identify, to name some trace or aspect of reality…" In 1969, Northern Ireland was rocked by intense political and sectarian rioting which developed into the" Troubles." Le Brocquy's terrified heads of the early '70s express this horror with a hand turned palm outwards ordering a halt to this sustained war.  Executed in 1971, Head conveys the anguish and suffering of the people in Northern Ireland. The effect of a distressed face emerging slowly within two delineated squares has powerful emotional impact. The austerity of the cool background, with its shifting, carefully modulated light, is the perfect foil for the emotional intensity of the head, where all the vibrant colour is concentrated. Le Brocquy remains the master of subtlety and restraint. Le Brocquy's paintings draw on our past associations with religious images for their solemnity and grandeur. There isn't the slightest hint of casual informality about them. The paintings have a formal symmetry, with an aura of light concentrated around the head in the tradition of medieval religious art. A hand pressing against the surface is a panic-stricken cry for help.  The open mouth is a primal scream. The terror of the Northern Troubles is distilled so that we end up with its essence. Dr  Frances Ruane HRHA
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