In direct contrast to le Brocquy's focus on the single isolated figure in his series of Presences and Heads, in the mid-1950s he developed two series of dynamic Processions featuring multiple figures within a horizontal compositional arrangement. His earliest treatment on the theme, Children in a Wood (1954, Private Collection), was inspired by the 17th Century Dutch painting, Boys Playing with a Goat, then attributed to Nicolas Maes and now attributed to Cornelis Bisschop, which le Brocquy saw at the Matthiessen Gallery, London in 1953. Like the Dutch source, le Brocquy's 1954 composition presents the children in a multitude of different poses within an Eden like setting and his use of cubist inspired facets results in a dynamic effect of movement across the picture plane.
Alongside his series of Children in a Wood, le Brocquy also developed a series of Processions with Lilies. The genesis for both series was a photograph depicting Dublin schoolgirls returning from the Church of Adam and Eve that was sent to le Brocquy in 1939 by Robert Dobbyn, manager of his grandfather's Dublin business. The black and white photograph featured a procession of girls each clutching lilies walking along the banks of the Liffey most probably after confirmation and le Brocquy translated that imagery into the frieze like quality of the present work. Published in the Evening Herald, the photograph dates to 16 June 1939; Bloomsday, and the Joycean links are also evident in the title of the present work, borrowed from Finnegan's Wake, 'Riverrun, past Eve and Adam's / from swerve of shore to bend of bay...'. le Brocquy later explained that, 'for many years I've been fascinated by both themes [Procession with Lilies and Children in a Wood] but it was not until quite recently that I consciously recognised a relationship between these two youthful processions, 'sacred and profane', two sides of the same phenomenal coin, one a Joycean charade, a conscious but fleeting actuality in a continuous progression of present moments; the other, as I see it, a constant condition of being...' (le Brocquy, 1991, quoted in A.Smith, Louis le Brocquy Paintings 1939 – 1996, exh.cat., Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, 16 October 1996 – 16 February 1997, p.83).
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