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 Louis Le Brocquy  (1916 - 2012)

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Lived/Active: Ireland      Known for: abstract head portrait and landscape painting

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Ad Code: 2
AskART Artist
from Auction House Records.
A FAMILY, 1951
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

Described as "a towering figure in the history of Irish painting", Louis Le Brocquy, born 1916, has had a 70 year career as an artist.  Marking his 90th birthday in 2006, eleven one-person exhibitions of his work were organized in Ireland and abroad.  In their editorial dated November 4, 2006, a reviewer for The Irish Times wrote: Louis le Brocquy, the elder statesman of Irish art, is currently the subject of a number of celebratory exhibitions and events to mark his ninetieth birthday, not only in Ireland but also in Paris and London. The celebrations and accolades have been well earned after more than seven decades during which this self-taught artist has come to be recognized both at home and internationally as the foremost Irish painter of the 20th century.

He is especially noted for his portrait heads of notable writers and painers including Pablo Picasso, James Joyce, Oscar Wilde and William Butler Yeats.  Other figural subjects were rootless people living on the fringe of society, and from his fascination with persons of transient lifestyles, he did a Tinker Series in the mid 1940s.  After World War II, his paintings reflect his 'grey period', a time of sadness and disillusionment that he expressed with monochromatic works, many of them with grey, white and black coloration.

His work is in the collections of the Guggenheim Museum in New York City, the Tate Gallery in London, and the National Gallery of Ireland plus in collections of many regional museums in his native coutry.  In1957, he represented Ireland at the Venice Biennale, and won a major prize for his Cubist painting, A Family, which he completed during his 'grey period'.  However, some persons found it repugnant, accusing the artist of a creating a diabolical caricature, and Dublin's Municipal Gallery of Modern Art officials refused it for that collection. 

Other phases of visual expression followed including a series of Heads (1964-2006), Processions (1984-1992), Human Images (1996-2004) and Homage Paintings (2005-2006).  He also did illustration and tapestry design.

Le Brocquy was the son of Albert le Brocquy, Honorary Secretary of the League of Nations Society in Ireland, and Sybil Staunton Le Brocquy, co-founder of Amnesty International in Ireland.  She was also a prominent literary scholar, and through her associations, Louis met many of the leading writers of the day and in turn, used them as subjects of his artwork.  He attended Mount Temple School as a youngster, and then St. Gerard's School in Wicklow from 1926 to 1934.  There he, who had been very religious, lost his faith because of the doctrinaire teaching of Roman Catholicism.

At age 17, he began pursuing his art talent, and, devoid of formal training, in 1934, he did his first sculpture, Evolution, in plasticine.  He also began landscape paintings and did reproductions of Old Master works.  Encouraged a few years later by his mother, he left Ireland in 1938 to study art collections in London, Paris, Venice and Geneva, and from that experience gained much respect and understanding of Old Masters, especially El Greco, Velazquez and Goya.

He returned to Dublin and launched his career in contemporary art, although he also spent time in London, living there for periods of time.  In addition to creating art, he was a teacher at the Central School of Arts and Crafts, a founder and board member of the Irish Museum of Modern Art in Dublin, and a founding member of the Kilkenny Design Workshops.


This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

Louis le Brocquy was born in Dublin. A self taught artist he is recognized by many as the greatest Irish artist of the twentieth century, and one of the greatest of any era. The recent realization of over £1 million for one of his works at auction is not merely a record but an acknowledgement of his genius and international appeal.

Source: Auctions

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