Modern Ireland in 100 Artworks: 1951 – A Family, by Louis le Brocquy

The painting, influenced by ‘Guernica’, secured his place in international modernism

Detail from ‘A Family’ (1951) by Louis le Brocquy (1916-2012). Courtesy: National Gallery of Ireland

Detail from ‘A Family’ (1951) by Louis le Brocquy (1916-2012). Courtesy: National Gallery of Ireland

When Louis le Brocquy’s painting Travelling Woman with Newspaper, from 1948, was auctioned for almost £1.2 million, in 2000, even Irish people who despise sale prices as indicators of aesthetic value were pleased to see a living Irish artist break through the million-pound barrier on the international market.

It was not always so. In 1952 a more famous painting by le Brocquy, A Family, was offered as a gift to the penniless Hugh Lane Municipal Gallery, only to be rejected. Two years after the 2000 auction the businessman Lochlann Quinn and his wife, Brenda, bought A Family privately for €2.7 million and gave it to the National Gallery of Ireland under the State’s heritage donation scheme. How those private patrons, refused 50 years earlier, must have smiled.

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