Lot 67
  • 67

LOUIS LE BROCQUY, H.R.H.A. | Image of Shakespeare

40,000 - 60,000 GBP
37,500 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Louis le Brocquy
  • Image of Shakespeare
  • oil on canvas
  • 76.5 by 76.5cm., 31¼ by 31¼in.
  • Painted in 1982.


Gimpel & Weitzenhoffer Gallery, New York, where purchased by a private collector and thence by descent


Paris, Galerie Jeanne Bucher, Louis le Brocquy, Studies Towards an Image of William Shakespeare, October-November 1982, no.477 (illus. in exh. cat.), with tour to Gimpel Hanover Emmerich, Zurich; Gimpel Fils, London; Gimpel & Weitzenhoffer, New York and Taylor Galleries, Dublin


Louis le Brocquy, Portrait Heads, 2007, National Gallery of Ireland exhibition catalogue, illustrated p.65

Catalogue Note

Louis le Brocquy is best remembered for his dramatically unique portrait series of key literary figures and poets entitled Portrait Heads (c.1975-2005). In this series, which includes notables such as William Shakespeare, Seamus Heaney and W.B. Yeats, le Brocquy sought to ‘paint [them] inside out’ (Le Brocquy, The Head Image, 1996, p.25). Le Brocquy developed a mode of portraiture where he abandoned conventional composition and physical accuracy in an attempt to visually articulate his subject’s inner artistic genius. Le Brocquy’s Irish contemporary, Francis Bacon, shared his desire to capture the innerness of a sitter. While Bacon achieved this through the kinetic energy of his brushstrokes, le Brocquy subverted and destabilised the traditional portrait genre further by detaching the head from any form of figuration. The sole focus of the portraits in this series is therefore the mind, devoid of any distraction. By avoiding any of the traps of traditional portraiture such as recognisable physicality, fashion and props, le Brocquy presents timeless representations of his sitters.

Le Brocquy created numerous studies of Shakespeare from 1980-83. In the present work, the subject’s detached head emerges ghost-like from the white abyss of the picture plane. The vivid strokes of saturated colour which resemble anatomical tones puncture the seemingly translucent skin as if revealing the pulsating talent that lay beneath. The almost skull-like representation of Shakespeare gives the impression of an artistic death mask – although the sitter is physically deceased his creative output lives on.