Auction Date:2012 May 21 @ 18:00 (UTC+1)
Location:Serpentine Hall, RDS, Anglesea Road entrance, Dublin, Dublin, ., Ireland
Louis le Brocquy-STUDY FOR RECONSTRUCTED HEAD OF S. B. (SAMUEL BECKETT), 1965
watercoloursigned and dated lower left
22 by 15in., 55.88 by 38.1cm.
Orientation of Image: P
Provenance: Gimpel Fils Gallery, London;
Whence purchased by Bruce Arnold in 1968;
Sold to the present owner, May 1975
Exhibited: 'Louis le Brocquy Paintings', Gimpel Fils, London, 1-26 March 1966, catalogue no. 67; 'The Irish Imagination 1959-1971, an exhibition in association with Rosc', Municipal Gallery of Modern Art, Dublin, 23 October to 31 December 1971, catalogue no. 11 in 'The Literary Influence' section (Lent by Bruce Arnold); 'Irish Art 1943-1973: an exhibition in association with Rosc', Crawford Municipal Gallery of Art, Cork, 24 August to 7 November 1980, toured to the Ulster Museum, Belfast, January to February 1981, catalogue no. 66 (Lent by the present owner)
Notes: Artist's archive number W.51.Over a period of thirty or so years, from 1965 when this work was painted, Louis le Brocquy carried out numerous images of Samuel Beckett, mainly in oils but also, as in this case, in watercolour. The Head series began with the early experimental works, known collectively as the Ancestral Heads (1964-1975), followed by the Portrait Heads (c.1975-2005). It is thought that the present Study is the first watercolour in the series, and the artist himself confirmed this on a visit to Whyte's in 2007.1. Study for Reconstructed Head of S.B. (Samuel Beckett) belongs to the early experimental phase when the artist was searching for a distinctive method for representing the intellect, imagination and creativity of a range of individuals chosen for their historical significance or exceptional literary and artistic achievements. Mostly, though not exclusively, Irish, the figures included James Joyce, WB Yeats, Louis' wife - artist Anne Madden - and his friends Francis Bacon and Seamus Heaney, as well as Beckett. The Head series was a remarkable development for le Brocquy, emerging after a period of struggle for direction. A visit to the Musée de l'Homme in Paris in the winter of 1964 brought him into contact with the Polynesian heads in that collection, which touched a chord in the artist. As he explained "Like the Celts I tend to regard the head as this magic box containing the spirit. Enter that box, enter behind the billowing curtain of the face, and you have the whole landscape of the spirit." 2.In attempting to convey the elusive presence of the person within, the heads are presented as touches and swathes of colour, devoid of defining outlines, and variously ethereal. While he knew Beckett, le Brocquy did not paint the images from life, but from photographs or memory, preferring to respond to the afterimage rather than the literal presence of the individuals. Typically, each head in the series is shown floating, disembodied, on a muted background, thereby focusing attention on the essential individuality of the character, as well as the ultimate reality of human isolation. The Study presented here shows one of the earliest experiments in this genre. Composed in blues, red and brown, the head is modelled to give an overall form, but limited detail: there are no visible eyes, and little external description - it is not intended as literal and mimetic, though some later works of Beckett are more recognizable. This work, however, while referencing the distinctive brow, high cheekbones, and strongly cleft chin, is less concerned with the surfaces of his appearance than with the interior abstract complexities of his imagination.Dr Yvonne Scott
April, 20121. My thanks to Whyte's for this observation.
2. Michael Peppiatt, 'Interview with Louis le Brocquy', Art International, Vol. XXIII/7, October, 1979, pp.60-66. Reproduced in Pierre le Brocquy (ed.), Louis le Brocquy, The Head Image, Gandon Editions, Kinsale, 1996, p.23.