President Michael D Higgins and Taoiseach Enda Kenny led tributes to renowned artist Louis le Brocquy who has died.
The painter, best known for his portraits of great literary figures, friends and fellow artists, died at home in Dublin aged 95 with his wife, Anne Madden, at his side.
Le Brocquy had been ill for the past year.
President Higgins, who with wife Sabina was a friend, described his pioneering style as highly inspirational and genius.
“I lament the loss of a great artist and wonderful human being whose works are amongst this country’s most valuable cultural assets and are cherished by us all. Louis leaves to humanity a truly great legacy,” he said.
In a mark of his standing le Brocquy was the first artist to have his work acquired by the National Gallery of Ireland during his lifetime – the gallery paid a then record 2.75 million euro (£1.15m) for A Family for its permanent collection.
The Taoiseach said he had made a highly significant contribution to Irish life with his wide ranging appeal.
“Louis’s art had a very broad appeal and was admired not only across the world but also by people of all ages and will stand as a lasting legacy to his outstanding artistic prowess,” Mr Kenny said.
“Perhaps the ultimate statement of his standing is the fact that during his lifetime Louis was the first living painter to be included in the Permanent Irish Collection.”
Le Brocquy had two sons with Anne, Pierre, who helped to promote his works, and Alexis who are in Dublin. He also had a daughter Seyre from his first marriage.
A self-taught artist, he was highly skilled in the use of tapestry and was regarded as groundbreaking in many of the paintings he produced.
A special commemoration of his life service is planned for St Patrick’s Cathedral on Saturday afternoon at 2pm and is open to the public. The burial service will be private.
Born in Dublin in 1916, his work has spanned seven decades with most accolades coming for his evocative portrait heads of, among others, WB Yeats and James Joyce and his friends Samuel Beckett, Francis Bacon, Seamus Heaney and Bono which he began in the late 1960s.
The series grabbed much attention outside the art world, with Irish enterprise and investment gurus using a le Brocquy image to promote the country as a place to do business back in 2006. IDA Ireland also used one of his images of Bono for a full page ad in the Wall Street Journal.
Some of his works have been so well regarded that critics have discussed them alongside paintings by Lucian Freud, David Hockney and Francis Bacon.
Le Brocquy’s work is represented in numerous public collections, from the Guggenheim, New York to the Tate, London and further evidence of his standing internationally was highlighted in a tribute piece in The Washington Post.
Pat Moylan, chairman of the Arts Council in Ireland, described le Brocquy as one of the most important artists the country has produced.
“The development of le Brocquy’s work towards an ‘Irish modernism’ allowed Irish artists to think beyond the traditional, academic approach which had been dominant in Ireland,” he said.
“In this way, contemporary Irish visual artists today owe a great deal to the legacy of Louis Le Brocquy.”
Jimmy Deenihan, Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, described le Brocquy as the first truly internationally successful Irish modernist.
“There always was a daring in the subtlety with which he addressed his subjects over a blessedly long creative career, and this was recognised throughout the art world”, he said.
Highlights of le Brocquy’s career include representing Ireland at the Venice Biennale in 1956, and exhibitions at the Musee d’Art Moderne the la Ville de Paris in 1976, the New York State Museum in 1981, the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne in 1988 and at home in the Irish Museum of Modern Art in 1996.
In 1943 he became a founder member of the Irish Exhibition of Living Art in Dublin after his work was rejected by the Royal Hibernian Academy.
Amnesty International Ireland, which was founded with support from le Brocquy’s mother Sybil, also offered condolences.
Later, rock band U2 added their own tribute to le Brocquy.
“From the moment we met him at an Amnesty International event in 1984, our band had a strange intimacy with this giant of the art world – a gentle giant who taught manners to the world around him just by having more of them than anyone else,” the group said.
“We were fans but he called us friends, starstruck friends were common in his orbit.
“To so many of us he was the brightest star in the firmament, always there to guide, to encourage, to push you to realise your potential.”
In a message posted on their website, U2 said le Brocquy was a bit of a professor to them, indulging their inquiries about Beckett, Bacon and others.
“We were, we are, eternally grateful for this education,” they said.
“Now the painter that took our breath away as teenagers, the same way Bob Dylan or Patti Smith did, is gone from us but the illumination in the work he has left behind will take some pain out of that loss – and we have his beloved Anne to treasure.”