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LOT :28
Louis Le Brocquy HRHA (1916-2012)
Study towards an Image of W.B. Yeats
Watercolour, 22 x 17.5cm (8¾ x 7'')
Estimate EUR : €6,000.00 - €8,000.00
Auction Date : 22-11-2017


Louis Le Brocquy HRHA (1916-2012)
Study towards an Image of W.B. Yeats
Watercolour, 22 x 17.5cm (8¾ x 7'')
Signed with initials and dated (19)'75

Exhibited: The Dawson Gallery (Label verso); 'Louis le Brocquy, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Belfast, January - February 1976, where purchased by the current owners; Louis le Brocquy: A Recherche de Yeats, Musée dArt Moderne de la Ville de Paris, October - November 1976, Etude 73; Louis le Brocquy: Edinburgh Festival Exhibition, 1977, Richard Demarco Gallery.


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. In the last decade le Brocquy has reinvented for himself the idea of portraiture, moving through family and friends to contemplate master spirits of his country, like Joyce and Beckett. As he says ''simply because by their works I know them, and am drawn to peer through their familiar, ambiguous faces which mask and at the same time embody - the great worlds of their vision''.


And now Yeats, whom le Brocquy knew as a boy. Fascinatingly, the ideals and techniques of the two artists have much in common. One of the foolishnesses of modern psychology is to believe that we have only a few, usually warring, selves. But a Prospero, like Yeats, may live many lives, inhabit many faces, while achieving a unity invariety. At an early stage, he began to play with his doctrine of the Mask, the anti-self, as a discipline for spiritual or physical plenitude. ''I call to my own opposite'', he says, ''all / That I have least looked upon''. Let us examine his selves, as they pass before us, in slow procession. There is the dreamy young man who pressed himself to the earth of Sligo and Howth, like a lover. He wanted to go and live on an island, or in a cave, like Shelley's Alastor, a young man burdened with dreams.


But dreams can be harnessed and that young romantic, a cowslick of hair carefully plastered over his brow, is a more wily customer that he seems. George Moore might wickedly compare his cawing voice to a crow's, his solemn poet's robes to an umbrella left behind at a picnic, but he also testified to his intellectual strength. It took a masterful man to found and manage the Abbey Theatre, to propagandise for an Irish Literary Renaissance. So the tuneless crow becomes a sacerdotal heron, a high priest of the arts. And the gaunt celibate becomes a great lover, who kneels before Maud Gonne, the English army captain's daughter who was his personification of Ireland, as Petrarch did before Laura, Homer before Helen. Love has as many allotropes as carbon - from soot to diamond - and Yeats weathered all the stages, crying out in frustration for the bosom of his ''faery bride'', swearing friendship with Olivia Shakespeare, collaborating with Lady Gregory, achieving a profoundly psychic exchange in his marriage with his medium wife.


For Yeats was a trained mystic, a member of the Order of the Golden Dawn, who did not play with, but actually practised magic. Technically, le Brocquy's method is akin to that of certain noble poems of Yeats where he names and numbers his friends, living and dead, or sets different aspects of himself to dialogue, even to dance. So the painter invokes faces of the poet, public and private, to challenge and exchange.


Compare earlier and later visages. The short-sighted sighing inventor of the Celtic Twighlight is now a ''smiling public man'' (No. 5). The right eye sharp, the left hooded, he exudes a satisfied power, like a replete bird of prey, ''the lidless eye that loves the sun''. The cowslick becomes a crest, a ruffled plumage, and the wide black riband, falling from the tortoise-shell- rimmed glasses, is set like a bar across his face. Significantly le Brocquy moves towards whiteness, the full majesty of paint, as the poet moves towards wholeness, definition. But with friends, Yeats could still display the full battery of his moods, changing from rage to affection, from solemnity to boyishness, in a single instant, like sun chasing shadow across a West of Ireland field.


For behind the silver-haired Senator, the majestic black hatted Nobel Prize winner, with his carefully rehearsed gestures, is still the young poet, the spiritual fanatic in search of truth. Crow, heron, eagle, scarecrow, le Brocquy dwells with wonder on the changing roles of Yeats; but my supreme favourite among these psychic portraits, these attempts to show how the spirit speaks and shines through the casket of the brain, the exposed or retreated eye, the chosen regalia, is one which combines the earlier and later selves (No. 3). The eyes are lifted triumphantly above the glasses, the lips are widening to smile, the hair is in disarray; this man has lived a strenuous life of achievement, has glimpsed truth and is not afraid of death: his ''ancient glittering eyes are gay''.


We acknowledge our thanks to the late John Montague who had granted us permission to reproduce his preface to catalogue Louis le Brocquy. A Ia Recherche de Yeats which had included this piece.


Hammer Price : €13,000.00
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