Adam's IMPORTANT IRISH ART 8th December 2021

46 31 LOUIS LE BROCQUY HRHA (1916-2012) ANCESTRAL HEAD (1965) Oil on canvas, 65 x 54cm (25½ x 21¼’’) Signed and dated (19)’65; also signed and inscribed with title on stretcher verso Provenance: With Gimpel Fils Gallery, label verso. € 60,000 - 80,000 Louis le Brocquy’s series of Ancestral Head paintings are in several senses the foundation layer of his most archetypal works: variations on the head image made through four decades. Crucial to all of these paintings is the idea of imaginatively tracing a lineage, of evoking both distinctive individuality and continuity. Le Brocquy’s breakthrough came after what he expe- rienced as a fallow period in the early 1960s. In retrospect it’s clear that it was not at all the fallow time he felt it to be: he was instinctively moving on, but perhaps his instinct was ahead of his conscious mind. In any case, bereft of inspiration, he visited the Musée de l’Homme in Paris one winter’s day in 1964. His attention was drawn to a display of Polynesian painted skulls, structures partly reconstructed with clay. He thought they were beautiful, and indicated an intriguing means of evoking the lost human presence. They also struck a chord, for him, with the Celtic cult of the head. It proposed the head as a “magic box” containing the spirit. He was prompted to visualize the being, the person, as symbolized by the head. This trans- lated perfectly into the technique he’d devised for evoking a subject emerging from “a matrix of light ” which was, in this context, time. Focussing on the idea of recalling and revivifying something lost, as with the Polynesian skulls, he looked to the deep past in his own local, Irish history. He addressed historical subjects, looking to the remote and the more recent, docu- mented past, to historical figures and to his own family ancestry. Born in Dublin in 1916, le Brocquy was earmarked to go into the family oil refinery business es- tablished by his grandfather. But he did not warm to studying chemistry and, with his mother’s backing decided to pursue his interest in art. He learned by looking at and copying the great works in English and European galleries. Back in Dublin in 1940, he quickly established him- self as one of the leading Irish modernist artists and remained so. He spent some years living and working in London and then France before eventually returning to settle in Dublin. The human figure, or more accurately the human being, was always at the core of his work and the strength and originality of his paintings earned him an international reputation. Aidan Dunne. October 2021