with Hillsboro Fine Art, Dublin;
Private collection, Dublin;
Whyte's, Important Irish Art, 28 November 2006, lot 30;
Where purchased by the present owner
The portrait series included well-known figures celebrated for their contribution to cultural expression in the past, known to the artist mainly through their work and reputation, including William Shakespeare and James Joyce. However, he also represented various individuals that he knew personally, including his friend Samuel Beckett.
The portrait head series involved multiple images of the subject, a practice that infers the challenge to le Brocquy as an artist in attempting to represent complex multidimensional individuals, whose external appearance is only an indication of the internal depths. Working usually from multiple photographs, le Brocquy recognised that these functioned collectively, more effectively perhaps than a single observation, and he responded to that multiplicity in his numerous studies. The artist quoted the physicist Erwin Schrödinger whose words resonated with him in this respect: '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.'(2)
While the portrait series is recognised for its concentration on the head, and the recognisable if somewhat elusive features, it is notable that, throughout the series, a small number of the works also includes a suggestion of another part of the body - in several cases, as in the present work, Image of Samuel Beckett (1994), his hands. A rare recording in a documentary film released in 1994, of Beckett talking about his work some years earlier, reveals the expressiveness of the writer's distinctive hands as he used them to gesture and articulate. As has occurred in selected examples of le Brocquy' work, the hands are important as a motif to indicate the craft of the writer, as well as to symbolise the desire to grasp and explore ideas and facilitate expression. There is a suggestion of a page, and this image brings to mind a late play by Beckett entitled Ohio, Impromptu, 1981. This work involves two actors of strikingly similar appearance, one representing the Reader, the other the Listener. In a subsequent recorded version of this play, cinematic technology enabled the same actor, Jeremy Irons, to play both roles. Significant however in this play is the role of hands, both to grasp the text and to knock on the wooden table at which the two characters are seated, to signify commencement and conclusion of phases of spoken text.
Louis le Brocquy painted several portraits of Samuel Beckett. While the image is instantly recognisable with the distinctive bone structure and features of the writer, it also conveys an intensely reflective, somewhat forbidding expression of deep concentration. This is not a florid or flamboyant image of creative genius; rather the subtlety, spareness and focus of the writer's work is intimated. Despite the internalised intensity of the gaze, there is also a suggestion of the humour and gentleness which the writer was known to display.
Samuel Beckett is a particularly apt subject for le Broquy. Not only did the artist collaborate with the writer on set designs during the 1980s, the portrait head series has remarkable parallels with aspects of Beckett's stagecraft. For example, in a television version of the writer's last play What Where,(3) the documentary of 1994 reveals Beckett's intense interest in the technological methods of how a human face could be visually isolated and highlighted as though emerging from a penumbra, and how its appearance could be either gradual or instantaneous, evoking different effects. Such motifs in Beckett's work bear significant relevance to le Brocquy's idiom in the Head series which, from the outset were shown consistently, in the words of the artist, in the process of emergence and immergence. The artist describes how such a contradictory co-existence 'apparently dissolves the normal sense of time' consequently 'producing a characteristic stillness.'(4) Such intense stillness, of deep concentration, is a characteristic of selected examples of le Brocquy's head images, not least this evocative portrait Image of Samuel Beckett. As he famously observed in relation to an earlier portrait of the writer: 'I'm not making a statement at all, you know, I'm simply trying to discover, to uncover, aspects of the Beckettness of Beckett …'.(5)
Dr Yvonne Scott
1. See note on Louis le Brocquy's painting Reaching. Homage to John Montague, 1968, lot. 52, in Whyte's Irish & International Art, 26 February 2018, Dublin, 2018, p. 46.
2. Louis le Brocquy, 'Notes on painting and awareness', in Dorothy Walker (ed), Louis le Brocquy, Dublin, 1981, p. 139.
3. Footage of Beckett in 1987, from the documentary film, Waiting for Beckett: A Portrait of Samuel Beckett, Global Village Production, 1994. Available to view on youtube.
4. Louis le Brocquy, op.cit., p.141.
5. Anne Cremin, 'Sam on Art', The Sunday Tribute, 22 September 1985, quoted: https://www.anne-madden.com/LeBPages/chronology24.html
- Auction Details
Continuing a very encouraging upward trend in the art market, this auction was extremely successful, with 85% selling rate and a gross sales total of €1.7 million. Some of the notable results were lot 25, Jack Yeats THE MAN WITH WRINKLED FACE at €245,000, 55 Louis le Brocquy IMAGE OF SAMUEL BECKETT €200,000, 22 Margaret Clarke SELF PORTRAIT €48,000, 15 Paul Henry MOUNTAINOUS LANDSCAPE €44,000, 73 Basil Blackshaw RACEHORSE €40,000, 8 Nathaniel Hone STORMY COAST €30,000, 80 Rowan Gillespie LADDER OF LIFE €30,000 and 13 Aloysius O’Kelly FISHING BOATS AT CONCARNEAU €22,000.
(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!