By Harry Keaney
Many artists never enjoy fame and fortune during their lifetime. But not Louis Le Brocquy, the renowned but unassuming Irish painter, who’s now 83.
Last week, one of Le Brocquy’s works, "Traveling Woman with Newspaper," painted more than half a century ago, was sold by Sotheby’s in London for a record £1.158 million sterling. The painting was one of a series made by Le Brocquy after he met a group of travelers near Tullamore, Co. Offaly, in 1945.
When told of the price, Le Brocquy said he was "utterly and totally flabbergasted." He added that he hoped the sale would raise the profile of Irish art generally.
Le Brocquy was born and raised in Dublin. His surname comes from a Belgian great-grandfather. His initial training was as a pharmacist and until 1938 he worked in Dublin for the family business, the Greenmount Oil Company. Although largely self-taught as an artist — he spent much time studying in museums in London and Paris — Le Brocquy is now recognized as probably the most accomplished Irish artist working today.
Although he has maintained homes in Ireland, Le Brocquy and his artist wife, Anne Madden, have, for the last 30 years lived in the south of France. But they are now returning to Ireland to make it their home.
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Works by other Irish artists too have been fetching record prices. Also at Sotheby’s:
€ A rediscovered Sir. John Lavery painting, "A Woman and Her Dog, Grez-sur-Loing," sold for £993,500, almost double its presale estimate.
€ Harry Kernoff’s "Davy Byrne’s, Duke Street from the Bailey" sold for £80,500.
€ Frank McKelvey’s "Woman and Child Feeding Chickens" sold for £78,300 and
€ James Humbert Craig’s "Leenane, Co. Galway" went for £37,300.
And at Christie’s in London last week:
€ "Played!!" by John Lavery sold for £575,750.
€ Thomas Roberts’s "The Sheet of Water at Carton, Co. Kildare" sold for £454,750.
€ "Paysage, Pont-Aven," a rediscovered work by Roderic O’Connor, dating from 1892, was sold for £289,750 sterling.
€ Nathaniel Hone’s portrait of Capt. the Hon. Robert Boyle Walsingham, until recently on loan to the Irish Georgian Society at Castletown, Co. Kildare, was sold to an Irish bidder for £245,750.