Christie's, London, 12 May 2006, Lot 114;
'Louis le Brocquy and the Celtic Head Image', State Museum, New York, September to November 1981, catalogue no. 110
Initially, when the head paintings emerged in 1964, they represented ancestral figures, suggesting antecedents who, with the passage of time, were no longer named and identified and were thus represented as ethereal and insubstantial. This phase provided a kind of human provenance on which to build, and Le Brocquy's Head series evolved into portraits of influential creative practitioners, primarily writers and artists. Some of these were known to the artist only through their work, like Shakespeare, while other senior figures that he had met in his youth, like WB Yeats, were admired, but elder, distant inspirations. However, others were known to him personally and became friends and project collaborators, as was the case with Samuel Beckett.
Image of Samuel Beckett (1980) is one of several paintings of this subject. As with his portrait heads in general, each is recognisably of the sitter, but each is subtly different, as Le Brocquy explored the challenges of representing complex, multi-faceted individuals. John Russell described this process: '… we no longer accept the idea of human personality as something that has a unified existence and can be captured in a single image.' (3) Elsewhere he noted the artist's view that no one image can be definitive; the process was rather a long and patient siege rather than a headlong assault. Russell quoted the artist in this respect: '… to attempt to-day a portrait, a single static image, of a great artist … seems to me futile … we now perceive the human individual as facetted, kinetic'. (4) Le Brocquy's practice reflected the words of physicist, Erwin Schrödinger, who for a time taught at Trinity College Dublin: 'Consciousness is a singular of which the plural is unknown and what appears to be plurality is merely a series of different aspects of the same thing.' (5) As a consequence, while the various images of a sitter may be understood as parts of a common project, no one series could ever be considered completely finished as there was always the potential for a further study; as Russell observed of the 'variants beyond number … there is no reason why the series should ever come to an end'. (6)
While Louis le Brocquy's subjects can be identified by their facial features and expressions, he aimed to convey something of their inner character and creativity rather than simply the external features. The artist was fascinated with the idea of the head as a container of the spirit, and that concept, which had been initially triggered by a visit to the Musée de l'Homme in Paris in the early 1960s, was developed by him over time into an original and distinctive body of work that provided a significant impetus for several decades. Typical of the series is the representation of the head, independent and disembodied, emerging from the depths of the canvas, primarily in white impasto but with tones introduced to develop intensity and form. Russell recounts how, in conversation with Michael Peppiatt, the artist had explained the reaction to light and to whiteness that evolved over time, and that eventually he '… had the idea of conjuring up images out of nothing, out of light, out of the depths of the blank canvas, as it were.' (7)
That Le Brocquy knew Beckett personally is indicated in the convincing immediacy of the representation. While Beckett's craggy features are clearly evident, what makes the image outstanding is the penetrating gaze emerging from the depth of the eye sockets. The deep shadowing of the left half the face, and the highlighted right, convey at once a sense of presence and absence, of the physical and the imaginative, of both intense observation and of contemplation. Russell's words on his portraiture practice are relevant to the present Image of Samuel Beckett in 'building an image that is vague or vacant in some areas and startlingly clear and exact in others'. (8) While it presents a tangible, credible individual, it also evokes the kind of familiarity and insight that comes only from exposure and friendship. As Louis le Brocquy observed of his practice: 'In painting you can only hope for discovery. Invention for me is recognition.' (9)
Dr Yvonne Scott,
1. Dorothy Walker, Louis le Brocquy, Ward River Press, Dublin (1981), p.148.
2. John Russell, 'Introduction', in ibid., p.9.
3. Ibid, p.14.
4. Ibid, pp.14-15.
5. Louis le Brocquy, 'Notes on painting and awareness', in Dorothy Walker (ed), Louis le Brocquy, Dublin, 1981, p. 139.
6. Russell, op.cit., p.18.
7. Ibid, p.13.
8. Ibid., p.18.
9. Louis le Brocquy, 'Notes on painting and awareness', in Walker (1981), op.cit., p.149.
- Auction Details
Printed catalogue available free at our galleries or €10 by post.
AUCTION: Monday 16 September 2019, starting at 6pm
VIEWING: Saturday to Monday 14-16 September, 10am to 6pm daily
VENUE: Royal Dublin Society Exhibition Centre (RDS) Hall 6, Anglesea Road, Ballsbridge. Free parking for Whyte's clients
(a) Each lot is put up subject to any reserve price imposed by the vendor
(b) Subject to sub-clause (a) of this clause, the highest bidder for each lot shall be the purchaser thereof
(c) If any dispute arises as to the highest bidder the auctioneer shall have absolute discretion to determine the dispute and may put up again and re-sell the lot in respect of which the dispute arises.
(a) The bidding and advances shall be regulated by and at the absolute discretion of the auctioneer and he shall have the right to refuse any bid or bids. NOTE: Where an agent bids, even on behalf of a disclosed client, the auctioneer nevertheless has the right at his discretion to refuse any such bid.
(b) The purchaser of each lot shall immediately on its sale, if required by the auctioneer, give him the name and address of the purchaser and pay to the auctioneer at his discretion the whole or part of the purchase money. If the purchaser of any lot fails to comply with any such requirement the auctioneer may put up again and re-sell the lot; if upon such re-sale a lower price is obtained than was obtained on the first sale the purchaser in default on the first sale shall make good the difference in price and expenses of re-sale which shall become a debt due from him.
(c) Where an agent purchases on behalf of an undisclosed client such agent shall be personally liable for payment of the purchase money to the auctioneer and for safe delivery of the lot to the said client.
(a) The auctioneer reserves the rights to bid on behalf of clients including vendors, but shall not be liable for errors or omissions in executing instructions to bid.
(b) The auctioneer reserves the rights, before or during a sale, to group together lots belonging to the same vendor, to split up and to withdraw any lot or lots at the auctioneer's absolute discretion and without giving any reason in any case.
(c) The auctioneer acts as agent only, and therefore shall not be liable for any default of the purchaser or vendor.
(a) Each lot shall be at the purchaser's risk from the fall of the hammer and shall be paid for in full before delivery and taken away at his expense within one day of the sale. The buyer will be responsible for all removal, storage and insurance charges in respect of any lot which has not been collected within one day of the date of sale. (b) If any purchaser fails to pay in full for any lot within 21 days of the date of sale such lot may at any time thereafter at the auctioneer's discretion be put up for sale by auction again or sold privately; if upon such re-sale a lower price is obtained than was obtained on the first sale the purchaser in default on the first sale shall make good the difference in price and the expenses of re-sale which shall become debt due from him. (c) Interest at 2 per cent per month and legal costs (if any) for recovery of monies due shall be payable by the purchaser on any overdue account.
(a) All lots are made available for inspection before each sale and each buyer, by making a bid, acknowledges that he has satisfied himself as to the physical condition, age and catalogue description of each lot (including but not restricted to whether the lot is damaged or has been repaired or restored).
(b) All lots are sold with all faults and imperfections and errors of description and the Auctioneer and its employees, servants or agents shall not be responsible for any error of description or for the condition or authenticity of any lot, save for Clause 5 (c) below. Written or verbal condition reports may be supplied by the Auctioneer on request but these are merely statements of opinion, and any error or omission in these reports may not be taken as grounds for a cancellation of sale or refund of any part of the purchase price or the cost of any repairs to the lot or lots reported on
(c) A purchaser shall be at liberty to reject any lot if he - (i) gives the auctioneer written notice of intention to question the genuineness of the lot within seven days from the date of sale; AND (ii) proves that the lot is a deliberate forgery and (iii) returns to the auctioneer within 20 days from the date of sale the lot in the same condition as it was at the time of sale; provided that the auctioneer may, at his discretion, on receiving a request in writing from the purchaser, extend for a reasonable period the time for return of the lot to enable it to be submitted to expertisation. NOTE: The onus of proving a lot to be a deliberate forgery is on the purchaser.
(d) Where a lot has been submitted to expertisation, all costs of such expertisation shall be paid by the person who retains the certificate of expertisation and item or items to which the certificate relates.
(e) Where the purchaser of a lot discharges the onus and acts in accordance with sub-clause (b) of this clause, the auctioneer shall rescind the sale and repay to the purchaser the purchase money paid by him in respect of the lot.
(f) No lot shall be rejected if, subsequent to the sale, it has been marked by an expert committee or treated by any other process unless the auctioneer's permission to subject the lot to such treatment has first been obtained in writing.
(g) Any lot listed as a "collection, range, portfolio etc." or stated to comprise or contain a collection or range of items which are not described shall be put up for sale not subject to rejection and shall be taken by the purchaser with all (if any) faults, lack of genuineness and errors of description and numbers of items in the lot, and the purchaser shall have no right to reject the lot; except that, notwithstanding the foregoing provisions of this sub-clause, where before a sale a person intending to bid at the sale gives notice in writing to, and satisfies the auctioneer that any such lot contains any item or items undescribed in the sale catalogue and that person specifically describes that item or those items in that notice, then that item or those items shall, as between the auctioneer and that person, to be taken to form part of the description of the lot. Clause 6 The respective rights and obligations of the parties shall be governed and interpreted by Irish law, and the buyer hereby submits to the exclusive jurisdiction of the Irish Courts.
a) The buyer shall pay the Auctioneer a commission at the rate of 20% of the purchase price (which excludes VAT at the prevailing rate under The Margin Scheme and which is not reclaimable). There is no extra charge to on-line buyers on Whyte’s platform – bid.whytes.ie. However bidders on other platforms shall pay an extra commission of 3% to 5% (plus VAT) to cover the charge made by the on-line bidding provider.
(b) The Auctioneer or its employees, servants or agents may, on request organise packing and shipping of lots purchased or may order on the buyer's behalf third parties to pack or ship purchases. Under no circumstances does the Auctioneer accept any liability whatsoever for any loss or damage howsoever occasioned in the course of such service.
(c) The buyer authorises the Auctioneer to use any photographs or illustrations of any lot purchased for any or all purposes as the Auctioneer may require. The placing of a bid will be taken as full agreement to all the above conditions.
WHYTE AND SONS AUCTIONEERS LIMITED, 2018.
YOU CAN LEAVE BIDS OR BID LIVE ON THE INTERNET - all our sales are broadcast live with video and audio at NO EXTRA COST to buyers. Register using www.bid.whytes.ie or follow the link to LIVE BIDDING from our main websites www.whytes.ie or www.whytes.com . For a guide to bidding on-line click here
YOU CAN BID LIVE ON THE TELEPHONE: (on lots with a high estimate of €1,000+ only) we can arrange to telephone you on lots you are interested in and you can bid live over the phone. This service is offered subject to availability of lines and we accept no responsibility whatsoever for not being able to contact clients during the auction for any reason, be it technical difficulty or otherwise.
YOU CAN LEAVE YOUR BIDS FOR US TO PLACE – just use the bidding form provided. You can fill it in and leave it with our staff or email it in to our office – preferably at the very least an hour before the sale starts. Our staff will be happy to help you with this
YOU CAN E-MAIL BIDS to firstname.lastname@example.org. You will need to include your full name and address and telephone number
A FEW TIPS FOR ABSENTEE BIDDERS:
Bid the maximum price you would pay for the lot; we will try and secure the lot for you at the lowest possible price. For instance if you bid €2,000 on a lot and the highest other bid we receive is €1,200 you get it for €1,250.
Most people tend to bid in round numbers, e.g. €500. It’s often a good idea to bid an odd number, e.g. €520, or €540 which will outbid an even number.
“Break ties” or “Plus 1” Bids: give us discretion to increase your bid by one step to beat a bid equal to yours.
Interested in several lots but only want to buy one or two? You can enter bids on any number of lots but limit the grand total spent. Lots are bid on in the numerical order they appear in the catalogue.
You can also use alternatives: just write “OR” between the lots e.g “Lot 30 €1,000 OR Lot 34 €2,000 OR Lot 38 €1,600”.
Check the results the day after the sale: these are published on our website www.whytes.ie at about 10am on the day after the sale. Successful bidders are also notified of results by mail.
FOR HELP AND ADVICE ON BIDDING PLEASE EMAIL email@example.com OR TELEPHONE 01 676 2888 (+3531 6762888)
Good luck with your bidding!