Louis Le Brocquy dies in Dublin


One of Ireland’s most renowned artists, Louis le Brocquy, has died at the age of 95.

The painter, best known for his portraits of great literary figures and fellow artists, died at home in Dublin with his wife, artist Anne Madden, at his side. He is also survived by his sons Pierre and Alexis.

Le Brocquy had been ill for the past year.

In a statement, President Michael D Hiigins paid tribute to the artist.

“Louis le Brocquy’s pioneering approach to art, influenced by the European masters, was highly inspirational,” he said.

“His works including the Tinker Paintings broke new ground and opened dialogue around the human condition and suffering. Through painting, tapestry and print Louis le Brocquy has provided us with individual works and collections that give the insight and response of an artist of genius to Irish history, culture and society.”

The President said both he and his wife Sabina were deeply saddened to hear of Le Brocquy’s death and offered heartfelt sympathies to family and friends.

“Today I lament the loss of a great artist and wonderful human being whose works are amongst this country’s most valuable cultural assets and are cherished by us all. Louis leaves to humanity a truly great legacy,” the President said.

Above: Bono pays tribute to Louis le Brocquy at the unveiling of a specially commissioned portrait of the U2 singer at the National Gallery of Ireland to celebrate the reopening of the National Portrait Collection in 2003. Photograph: Dara MacDónaill/The Irish Times

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said le Brocquy had made a significant contribution to Irish like and was one of the greatest artists of his generation.

“Louis's art had a very broad appeal and was admired not only across the world but also by people of all ages and will stand as a lasting legacy to his outstanding artistic prowess,” he said. “Perhaps the ultimate statement of his standing is the fact that during his lifetime Louis was the first living painter to be included in the Permanent Irish Collection of the National Gallery.”

Minister for Arts Jimmy Deenihan expressed his “deep sadness” on hearing of le Brocquy’s death. “The death of a loved one, is always especially sad for those close to them and for Ann Madden the loss of Louis will no doubt create a great vacuum in her life. I hope that the wonderful legacy of his paintings, with his truly original approach to art, will provide some solace to her in the days ahead,” he said.

Mr Deenihan noted le Brocquy’s work features in the collections of numerous museums throughout the world. “That the Guggenheim in New York, the Columbus Museum in Ohio and the Picasso Museum in Antibes have holdings of his seminal works attests to the genius and craft of this wonderful artist. There always was a daring in the subtlety with which he addressed his subjects over a blessedly long creative career, and this was recognised throughout the art world,” he Minister said.

In a statement, the National Gallery of Ireland described the le Brocquy as a “towering figure” in Irish art, whose work “is a testament to his openness to international modernism and Irish influence, but is also a record of a singular vision”.

Le Brocquy was first living artist to be represented in the permanent collection of the National Gallery of Ireland. His works in collection include Self-Portrait (1947), A Family (1951), the large tapestry Triumph of Cúchulainn (2001), which hangs in the Millennium Wing, and Image of Bono (2003), which was commissioned for the National Portrait Collection.

Handlers hang Louis Le Brocquy’s 1951 painting A Family at the National Gallery in Dublin as part of Taking Stock: Acquisitions 2000-2010 exhibition. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Born in Dublin in 1916, le Brocquy's work has spanned seven decades with most accolades coming for his evocative portrait heads of, among others, WB Yeats and James Joyce and his friends Samuel Beckett, Francis Bacon, Seamus Heaney and Bono.

Highlights of his career include representing Ireland at the Venice Biennale in 1956, and exhibitions at the Musée d’Art Moderne the la Ville de Paris (1976), the New York State Museum (1981), the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne (1988) and the Irish Museum of Modern Art (1996) and the Hunt Museum in 2006.

A public commemoration of le Brocquy’s life will be held at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin this Saturday at 2pm.