Friday 17 January 2020

Remembering Louis

Barry Egan spoke to some luminaries of Irish art about Louis Le Brocquy

Oliver Caffrey, businessman "A good few years ago, I bought a large head of le Brocquy at an auction. I paid £15,000 for it. The day I was hanging it in my restaurant, Polo One, Lord Rothermere rang me. 'You seem to be panting. What are you doing?' he enquired. I told him I was hanging Louis Le Brocquy. 'I know Louis Le Brocquy,' he said, 'He is a fine artist. One of the Irish painters of international standing.' It was a wonderful painting."

Guggi, artist

"He was a beautiful man, as well as a beautiful painter. His grace humbled me."

Sharon Corr, musician and

coach on RTE's The Voice:

"I love how he captured the life-force of people through his portrait heads where the features were somehow secondary yet the face beautifully visualised."

Stephen Pearce,

world famous potter

"I met Louis for the first time at the Dawson Gallery on Dawson Street back in the Sixties with Leo Smith, who was the main dealer in Dublin at the time. He was kind of different than all the other artists. It always appeared that he thought he was a bit better than everybody else.

"[Soon after] he was hanging an exhibition. Leo said to me: 'Oh my God, I'm going to spend the next two days with Louis moving them up quarter of an inch and down quarter of an inch.' It was kind of anal that things had to be a certain way, which I suppose is part of being an artist.

"It always seemed to me that Louis was trying hard to be original, to be an artist; whereas with Pat Scott it just always flowed naturally.

"The last time I saw Louis, it was at the launch of a book of Pat's. I was sitting between Louis and his wife Anne at supper. I would start talking to Louis -- and Louis at that stage really wasn't making a lot of sense; he was getting old ... anyway, his wife would say to me: 'Oh, don't waste your time talking to him! He doesn't know what he's talking about!' He was a really lovely old man at that stage.

"Over the last two or three years when Louis had virtually stopped painting, Anne has really started doing some amazing work. Now I think, it could end up that her art is definitely more important than his.

"I thought his work was affected and unimportant. The thing about Louis is that he somehow got into the public consciousness. So when people think of the great Irish artist, they think of Louis Le Brocquy because they know no better; a bit like my friend Bobby Ballagh."

Harry Crosbie,


"Louis was a beautiful man. He and Anne used to store their paintings in one of my warehouses down the quays. We had many wonderful and funny afternoons together. We will miss him."

Gay Byrne,

broadcaster and writer

"Any time I met him he was most welcoming and most courteous. In terms of his work, the head series, whether it was Bono or Brian Friel, they were startling and immediately identifiable. He executed it extraordinarily well."

Michael Colgan,

artistic director of

The Gate Theatre

"Louis Le Brocquy, in terms of Irish art, was the real deal. He was genuinely inspirational. I thought he was certainly the best of his generation. He was the Bono, the Heaney, the Friel. The main thing about him was, here was a man who was mild in his life and passionate in his art. He put his fire into his art. When you met him, he was very, very gentle. When you shook his hand it was so soft and delicate. He was the summit of cool.

"I remember once being in Whites On The Green with Louis. It was one of those occasions where during the meal I longed to have a camera perched on my right shoulder filming him. Because he began to talk about art and about the process of art. It was the most fascinating, conversation I think I've ever had about the artistic drive and motivation. He talked lovingly about Picasso, the fact that he was a soul mate.

"I know this sounds obvious but Louis was stylish -- he had a great aesthetic in his life. It would be impossible to find anyone any more gracious than Louis Le Brocquy. His dress was impeccable. It is not always so; some painters look like unmade beds.

"His taste, in terms of other artists, in terms of other talent, was absolutely on the money. He got Beckett. He got Bono. He got Friel. His judgement was impeccable.

"He and I only worked together once. He did the sets and the costumes for Waiting For Godot in 1987. He went to France and spoke to Beckett about it. Beckett, on the back of his American Express slip, drew the tree for Louis. Louis gave me a copy of it. He would have been meticulous in putting together his work. And to be that meticulous and precise in your work, and yet in achieving that, he was always admired, always loved."

Gavin Friday, singer

"A beautiful man -- beyond a gentleman. Spending time with Louis was like sitting with Buddha. As for his work, genius is the first word that comes to mind."

Michael Smurfit,


"I knew Louis for over 40 years. He was an extraordinary man and I got to know him quite well when he came to the south of France.

"I have a small collection of his art. As well as being an outstanding artist, he was a very warm person."

Sunday Independent

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News