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Work of the Week | 31 January 2022

CAG.826 Louis le Brocquy, Image of James Joyce, 1994, oil on canvas, 92 x 78 cm. Purchased, with assistance from Friends of the Crawford Gallery, 1994. © The Estate of Louis le Brocquy

This WORK OF THE WEEK is dedicated to James Joyce’s Ulysses, which was published 100 years ago this week!

Image of James Joyce (1994) by Louis le Brocquy both conceals and reveals the spirit of its subject. The artist, who made numerous portrait ‘heads’ of Joyce (and others) during his career, described the ‘reverence, compassion and wonder which we all share in face of that unique boat-shaped head – the raised poop of the forehead, the jutting bow of the jaw – within which he made his heroic voyage, his navigatio.’

In writing Ulysses (1922), Joyce transforms Homer’s Odyssey into Leopold Bloom's day-long journey across Dublin on 16 June 1904. Much talked about yet little read, the novel was published by Shakespeare and Company in Paris on 2 February 1922 – the author’s 40th birthday. A masterpiece of modernist literature, it would go on to become one of the most influential and infamous books of the twentieth century.

In 1979, Louis le Brocquy reflected that although he never knew Joyce, he was ‘bound to him as a Dubliner.’ He goes on to say that ‘Joyce is the apotheosis, the archetype of our kind and it seems to me that in him – behind the volatile arrangement of his features – lies his unique evocation of that small city, large as life and therefore poignant everywhere.’

Image of James Joyce (1994) by Louis le Brocquy is featured in our new exhibition, ODYSSEYS (Floor 1), which explores journeys in art and Joyce’s often overlooked connections with Cork.

Free entry | Open daily until 3 April

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