2017-11-22-2018-09-26 --- 2018-09-26 14:04:17--18
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LOT :22
Louis Le Brocquy HRHA (1916-2012)
Madonna and Child (1945)
Oil on gesso primed hardboard, 39.5 x 51cm (15½ x 20'')
Estimate EUR : €50,000.00 - €80,000.00
Auction Date : 22-11-2017


Louis Le Brocquy HRHA (1916-2012)
Madonna and Child (1945)
Oil on gesso primed hardboard, 39.5 x 51cm (15½ x 20'')
Signed and dated 1945; signed again, inscribed with title and dated 'Dublin June '45' verso


Provenance : Sold in these rooms at the first Irish Art Sale, December 1973, Cat. No. 71.



Louis le Brocquy painted Madonna and Child in 1945 just as World War II was coming to an end. The world needed mothering and Le Brocquy reflected much of the despair and austerity of the period in the colour scheme of this 1945 Madonna. Nearly sixty years later, in 2000, Dorothy Walker remarked on the tenderness of the mother child relationship in this painting but did not relate it to the state of Europe at the time. She could also have mentioned that the painting relates closely to socially committed work that Le Brocquy was then making, paintings of condemned prisoners, refugees, and Irish travellers, all of which employ the same simplicity, clarity of line, and strong focus on a single theme that is so evident here. The subdued colours, a clear rejection of the comforting blues, whites and reds conventionally used for this subject refer very specifically to the state of war weary Europe, where Le Brocquy had educated himself as an artist. They were to be taken up a few years later, in 1951, in his more widely known series A Family which was shown to international acclaim in the Venice Biennale in 1956.


Madonna and Child, 1945, represents an important transitional moment in le Brocquys career. In the early 1940s his paintings, notably The Spanish Shawl, 1941, reflected the pale, grey and white palette of John McNeil Whistler and that artists figurative style. By 1945 however, under the influence of Picasso, Le Brocquy was moving towards a more Cubist-inspired approach to form and ground. The delicate profile of the babys face, set into a fully rounded head, marks a very tentative step towards the kind of faceting that Picasso had introduced some years before and which was to become a hallmark of le Brocquys portraits of celebrity figures from the early 1970s onward. Here those influences are only to be noted as interesting art historical facts. The overriding importance of this painting is what is represented by the two figures in it; the vulnerability of the child, made especially evident in the blank eye on the near side of his face and the tiny hand on his mothers arm, which is in strongly contrasted to her enveloping bulk and her absolute attention to him.

Le Brocquy had good reason to value mothers. When as a young man he chose to reject a career in the family business, it was his mother Sybil who encouraged and supported him. And when, at a crucial moment, in his young career, The Spanish Shawl, despite its relative conventionality and conservatism, was rejected by the Royal Hibernian Academy it was in order to ensure that such rejections would not carry such destructive power in the future, that his mother and others, including Mainie Jellett and Evie Hone founded the Irish Exhibition of Living Art, changing the history of Irish art forever. Furthermore in 1945 he had recently become a father himself with his first wife, Jean Stoney.


Catherine Marshall

October 2017


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