Lot 112
  • 112

Louis le Brocquy, H.R.H.A.

40,000 - 60,000 GBP
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  • Louis le Brocquy, H.R.H.A.
  • Image of W. B. Yeats
  • signed and dated on the reverse: LE BROCQUY 1981
  • oil on canvas
  • 79 by 79cm., 31¼ by 31¼in.


Sold by the artist, Artists For Amnesty Art Auction, 1982;
Collection John Meagher;
Adams, Dublin, 5 December 2006, lot 60;
Private collection


Antibes, Musée Picasso, Louis le Brocquy, Images, 1975-1988, 1989


Original canvas. There is a horizontal line below the head approx. 25cm across that relates to a ridge of paint which is a result of the artist's working method rather than a condition issue. Below it are a few minor flecks of paint loss, only visible upon close inspection. The work appears in good overall condition. Under ultraviolet light there appear to be no signs of retouching. Held under glass in a wooden box frame; unexamined out of frame.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

‘Yeats, the most varied mind of the Irish race, the last – and perhaps the only – Romantic poet in English to manage a full career. Le Brocquy, the most dedicated Irish painter since Yeats’ brother died, with an intuitive sympathy for literature and mythology, an increasingly rare reverence before the human. Their meeting has an aspect of inevitability. (John Montague, Preface to catalogue, Louis le Brocquy, Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, 1976)

Le Brocquy knew Yeats as a boy, but it was many years until le Brocquy distilled his impressions of the great poet in a number of portraits from 1975, which belonged to a wider series portraying celebrated Irish literary and artistic figures. In the process, le Brocquy offered a distinct and radical approach to portraiture; heads emerging from a white background, their features built up in expert strokes of paint and colour, concealing and revealing. Simultaneously subtle and powerful one senses their solidity and fleetingness.  There is a compelling draw to the portraits: one imagines as soon as one might reach out to touch them, they would dissipate as fast, and one would be left grasping in the white, empty void.

These works represent a dramatic departure from traditional portraiture. ‘I [le Brocquy] realised that a portrait can no longer be the stable, pillared entity of Renaissance vision - that the portrait in our time can have no visual finality'. By not fixing the subject to a specific time or place, le Brocquy’s subjects transcend the limits of their own age and live continuously. Le Brocquy stressed that in a modern world of technology and psychology, the human being could no longer be perceived as a static entity. In the multiple versions le Brocquy produced of his sitters and in the layered construction of the heads, he reinforces this view, and the works possess a mythological and psychological quality. On encountering the heads of these famous artists and writers, one also gains a profound sense of the unique vision of the artist behind them.

Anne and Louis coordinated Artists For Amnesty Art Auction, works of art, literature and music by international artists, writers and composers, sold in aid of the Irish section of Amnesty International (May 1982). The auction was the first of its kind in Ireland to benefit an NGO. Participating artists included Francis Bacon, Joseph Beuys, Joan Miro, Valerio Adami, Eduardo Chilida, Samuel Beckett, Seamus Heaney, Henry Moore, Antonio Saura, and Henri Matisse - through their friend Pierre Matisse.