Monday, December 11, 2006

"Odalisque I. Looking at Manet. Olympia" (2005) by Louis le Brocquy

The "Odalisques Series" by Louis le Brocquy (Ireland, 1916) is inspired by Manet's painting Olympia (1863), a masterpiece which le Brocquy has ruminated upon since he first encountered it in Paris in 1938 at the Jeu de Paume. Olympia worked her complicated magic on le Brocquy at intervals throughout his career, while also leaving her enduring mark on art history and on the work of many other great artists including Picasso, Modigliani and Moore. In 1951 le Brocquy perceived Olympia very differently in his large painting A Family (National Gallery of Ireland), envisaging a group of refugees in post-war Europe. Here Manet's cool sensuality has been completely ignored; as the artist puts it, 'reduced to Palaeolithic circumstance under electric light bulbs.' In the recent Odalisques, however, le Brocquy has wholly returned to his original delight in Olympia, a naked figure at once aloof and alluring.


Born in Dublin, Ireland, Louis le Brocquy is one of the foremost Irish painters of the twentieth century. His work has received much international attention and many accolades in a career that spans seventy years of creative practice. In 1956, he represented Ireland at the Venice Biennale, winning the Premio Acquisito Internationale with A Family (coll. National Gallery of Ireland), subsequently included in the historic exhibition Fifty Years of Modern Art at Brussels World Fair 1958. Widely acclaimed for his evocative portrait ‘Heads’ of literary figures and fellow artists, which include William Butler Yeats, James Joyce, and his friends Samuel Beckett, Francis Bacon and Seamus Heaney, in recent years le Brocquy’s early Tinker subjects and Family paintings, have attracted headline attention on the international marketplace marking him as the fourth painter in Ireland and Britain to be evaluated within a very select group of artists, alonside Lucian Freud, David Hockney and Francis Bacon. Recognised by many as the greatest Irish artist of the twentieth century, and one of the greatest of any era, the recent realisation of over £1 million for one of his works at auction is not merely a record but an acknowledgment of his genius and international appeal. Acknowledged by museum retrospectives worldwide, the artist’s work is represented in numerous public collections, from the Guggenheim in New York City to the Tate Gallery in London. In Ireland, he is honoured as the first and only living painter to be included in the Permanent Irish Collection of the National Gallery.


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