Pilgrim on Anvil, 1984



Barry Flanagan (British, 1941-2009): Pilgrim on Anvil No 5, cast in an edition of 7 plus one artist's cast Signed, the anvil dated 1951 Bronze Conceived in 1984 Provenance: Private collection, acquired directly from the artist

Exhibition history: Waddington Galleries, 29th May-22nd June 1985. Catalogue and private view invitation included

Literature: Enrique Juncosa (ed.), Barry Flanagan: Sculpture 1965-2005 (Ireland, 2006) no.89, p.89, illustrated. Ferdinand Ulrich (ed.) Barry Flanagan: Sculpture and Drawing (Kerber Verlag, 2002), illustrated

Related to: No.2 of the same edition included in Recklinghausen Kunsthalle, Barry Flanagan: Plastik und Zeichnung - Sculpture and Drawing, 5 May-14 July 2002, cat no.2, illus color p110, touring to: Nice, Musée d'Art Moderne et d'Art Contemporain, 6 December 2002-25 May 2003

Tate Britain held a retrospective on Barry Flanagan 2011-2012. Barry Flanagan was one of Britain's most important and original artists, and this exhibition re-evaluated his position as a key figure in the development of British and international sculpture. Focusing on the artists' studio practice it brought together works from 1965-1982. It highlighted how his sculptures emerged through the interaction of idea, form and process and reflected his interest in and engagement with literature, poetry and 'pataphysics. The show also demonstrated the vital impact these early works had on the development of Flanagan's hare sculptures. This was the first major exhibition of Flanagan's work in London since 1983.

The sculpture consists of an up-ended bronze anvil with an abstract linear motif balanced on or projecting from the tip, the whole richly patinated.

Measures: Height 34 cm, 13¼in, width 78 cm, 30¾in, breadth 22.5 cm, 9in.

The anvil is a peculiarly appropriate image for a sculptor and it is used knowingly here and in a number other of Flanagan's sculptures. Its apparent solidity lends a physical gravitas to the piece, and as a classical form it also lends the gravitas of thousands of years of history. The anvil is a tool with which otherwise intractable raw materials are manipulated into man-made lines and transformed into useful objects. Its inertia allows the energy with which it is struck to transfer to the object which is being formed, it acts as a medium. It is a craftsman's tool and Flanagan identified with the craftsman; for a while as a younger artist he supplemented his income with work as a builder, frame-maker and then baker, and later he worked at a stone mason's yard. His practice as an artist was 'based on the notion of skill within a particular Craft.' Fuchs, R. (foreword), Barry Flanagan: sculpture 1966-1976 (Eindhoven: Municipal Van Abbemuseum, 1977).

Anvil, 1981 (exhibited at Venice Biennale 1982)

The anvil here is tilted onto one end, giving a sense of movement to an otherwise stabile form. It looks as though it has been knocked over or even tossed aside as if it weighs very little, by a super-human force. Discarded, it then manifests a life of its own, the lines of the pilgrim motif seeming to have grown organically from the tip.

A similar motif is joined to the Horn of an anvil in at least one other, related, work, also called Pilgrim on Anvil and of 1984

Pilgrim on Anvil (1984)

Flanagan had clearly been interested in the concept of the pilgrim, or pilgrimage for a few years. In the Tate is a linocut from 1981 titled Pilgrim, which depicts a simplified landscape with a strongly defined wedge cut-out of it. The motif is different to that of this sculpture, which suggests the form of an anchor. But both imply a sense of directed movement which fits with the idea of a pilgrim as a person making a journey of special significance, bringing to it energy and strong sense of purpose. In the literature of Christianity the pilgrimage can be the literal journey to a holy place or the experience of life in the world, or an inner spiritual journey towards enlightenment or a purified soul.

Pilgrim, 1981 (Tate collection)

It would be wrong to attempt to find a straightforward symbolicism in the work, or a simple narrative in the conjoining of two motifs. Flanagan's work is intrinsically playful, and intended to be lightly puzzling. He was interested in the philosophy of 'Pataphysics, a key doctrine of which is that we make up the meaning in life as we go along, and bring 'imaginary solutions' to any obstacles. So the work poses an irregularity, an unusual juxtaposition of images, each with a weight of associated ideas and connotations, to which we are intended to each bring our own imaginative solution.

Barry Flanagan in 1984 was a few years into his mature period. He had been working in bronze for five years and had modelled his first hare, the image he would become best known for, in 1979. Bronze, he felt was his most successful medium in that it suited his linear way of thinking, with its hard edges and depth of surface color. He had been taken on by Waddington Galleries, a relationship which would last for the rest of his life. He had already represented Britain at the Venice Biennale in 1982 and had many public commissions, including, in the same year as the conception of the present sculpture, baby elephant and Hare on Bell, for Equitable Life Tower West in New York. In the same year, baby elephant was purchased by the Art Institute of Chicago.

Flanagan's work is represented in the Art Institute of Chicago, Baltimore Museum of Art, Beverly Hills City Council, Museum of Modern Art, New York, the National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, as well as in public collections all-over the world.

In 1991 Flanagan was elected to the Royal Academy of Arts, and awarded an OBE.

I was a fully-fledged sculptor from the age of 17. I stepped right into it and embraced the physical world

Barry Flanagan


Barry Flanagan was born in Prestatyn, North Wales. He studied architecture at Birmingham College of Art and Crafts and after spells at different colleges was accepted on the Vocational Diploma in Sculpture at St. Martin's School of Art in London in 1964. Flanagan graduated in 1966 and taught at St. Martin's School of Art and the Central School of Arts and Crafts, between 1967 and 1971. In 1991 was elected to the Royal Academy and he received the OBE.

From the outset Flanagan's work has been perceived as radical and independent. He revolutionised sculptural material when in 1965 he showed the soft sculpture 'aaing j gni aa', 1965 at Better Books, Charing Cross Road (bought by the Tate Gallery in 1969) works such as this and '4 casb 2 '67', 1967 changed ideas about the language of sculpture forever. Flanagan was interested in 'pataphysics, Alfred Jarry's 'science of imaginary solutions' and this ethos is evident in the playfulness of his approach, which allows materials to find their own sculptural form, whether sand, or rope, stone, sheet metal, cloth, clay or bronze. He was included in the show, 'Between Poetry and Painting' at the ICA also in 1965 when he contributed a finger poem. His first solo exhibition was held at the Rowan Gallery, London in 1966. Thereafter he exhibited in numerous solo and group exhibitions, in Britain and abroad, including the seminal 'When Attitudes Became Form', Bern, 'Op Losse Schroeven', Amsterdam both in 1969 and 'Information' New York in 1970. His first solo exhibition at Waddington Galleries, London was held in 1980.

Flanagan is perhaps best known for his dynamic, often monumental, bronze hares, which spring into life and were first exhibited in the early eighties. Flanagan fuses the everyday, the imaginary and fantastical to mould clay into animal forms, hares, elephants, dogs and horses the horse is an archetype of classical sculpture. When asked about the use of the hare motif Barry would describe the magical experience of seeing a hare running on the Sussex Downs. This event prompted the first Leaping Hare sculpture in 1979. For the Egyptians the hare represented life. In Chinese mythology the hare is the sole inhabitant of the moon and the symbol of immortality. This mercurial image of the hare has come to stand as surrogate for human existence and our relations to the animal world.

His return to bronze with the hare, he had cast work in the foundry at Central School with Henry Abercrombie in 1969, was part of his exploration into different media, from the sand, rope and felt pieces, which focused on composition and challenged previous ideas of what sculpture might constitute, to the ceramics, stone, marble and sheet metal sculptures of the seventies. Many of his works have humorous titles for example 'A Nose in Repose' 1977-1978, collection Tate. He was involved in happenings and dematerialises practices and collaborated with Yoko Ono in 1966 and later in 1980 with the Marjorie Strider dance company. Like his contemporaries from St. Martins, Richard Long and Bruce McLean, Flanagan experimented with film. He was included in 'Land Art', Gerry Schum's Video Gallery exhibition with the film, 'A hole in the Sea' 1969.

The exhibition 'The horses of San MarCo' at the Royal Academy of Arts, London, in 1979 made a deep impression on Flanagan. Henry Abercrombie described the exhibition's impact on Flanagan's thinking and approach to sculpture, where the sheer tactile physicality of the ancient modeled horses created an aura and majesty. It was the ancientness of the sculptures that demonstrated man's relation with the animal as much as the desire and means to represent it. The varied patinas and gilding also provided substantial material to investigate the properties of bronze and the catalogue included essays on ancient casting methods, gilding in the Greek and Roman eras and an investigation of the foundry techniques used to cast the horses of San MarCo as well as analyses of the best ways to preserve the horses. The bronze sculptures of horses each have a distinctly different character for instance the beautiful majestic and powerful 'Horse', 1983 at Jesus College, Cambridge to the gentle diffidence of 'Field Day', 1986, also known as the 'Korus Horse' in San Eulalia, Ibiza and the mysterious, mythological qualities of the 'Unicorn and Oak Tree', 1991.

Flanagan represented Britain at the Venice Biennale in 1982. A major retrospective of his work was held at the Fundacion 'La Caixa' Madrid in 1993, touring to the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Nantes in 1994. Flanagan's bronze hares have also been exhibited in many outdoor spaces, most notably on Park Avenue in New York in 1995-6 and at Grant Park, Chicago in 1996. In 1999, he had a solo exhibition at Galerie Xavier Hufkens in Brussels followed by an exhibition at Tate, Liverpool (2000). In 2002, a major exhibition of his work was shown at the Kunsthalle Recklinghausen, Germany, and toured to the Musee d'Art Moderne et d'Art Contemporain, Nice. In 2006, the Irish Museum of Modern Art in Dublin held a major retrospective of his work, in association with Dublin City Art Gallery The Hugh Lane, which included ten large-scale bronzes installed along O'Connell Street and in Parnell Square. His work is held in public collections worldwide including the MOMA in New York, Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris and Tate in London. In 2011 Tate presented Barry Flanagan Early Works, 1965-1982.

Museums and Public Art Galleries : UK

• Arts Council Public Collection

• Royal Academy of Arts Collection, London, UK

• British Council Public Collection

• Chatsworth House, Derbyshire, England

• Courtauld Institute of Art, London, UK

• Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane, Dublin, Ireland

• Falmouth Art Gallery, England

• Government Art Collection Public Collection

• Hugh Lane Municipal Gallery Public Collection

• Leeds City Art Gallery Public Collection

• Royal Academy of Arts, London, UK

• Southampton City Art Gallery Public Collection

• Tate Public Collection

• Victoria and Albert Museum Public Collection

• The Walker Art Gallery Public Collection, Liverpool, UK

• Irish Museum of Modern Art Public Collection, Dublin, Europe

• Carmarthenshire Museums, Camarthen, UK

• Cardiff Museum of Art, Cardiff, UK

• Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh, UK

Museums and Public Art Galleries : Worldwide:

• Baltimore Museum of Art Public Collection

• Solomon R Guggenheim Museum, New York, US

• Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington DC, US

• Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Public Collection, Richmond, US

• John Berggruen Gallery, San Francisco, US

• Martin Z. Margulies Sculpture Park at Florida International University, Miami

• Walker Art Center, Minnesota

• Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art at Johnson County Community College, Kansas

• National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, US

• Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Montreal

• Centre Georges de Pompidou, Paris, Europe

• Lille Metropole Musee d'Art Moderne, France

• Musées de Lorraine, France

• Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Paris,

• Musée des Beaux-Arts (Brussels), Brussels, Europe

• Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium

• SMAK Stedlijk Gent, Gent, Europe

• Rijksmuseum Twenthe, Enschede, Europe

• Kunsthaus Public Collection ,Zurich, Europe

• Rijksmuseum Kröller Müller Public Collection, Europe

• Stedelijk Museum Public Collection , Amsterdam, Europe

• Van Abbemuseum Public Collection, Eindhoven, Europe

• Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Tel Aviv

• Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney,

• National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

• Fukuoka Art Museum, Fukuoka, Japan

• Niigata Prefectural Museum of Modern Art, Niigata

Provenance: Private Collection acquired directly from the artist

Exhibitions: Waddington Galleries, 29th May-22nd June 1985. Catalogue and private view invitation included.

Literature: Enrique Juncosa (ed.), Barry Flanagan: Sculpture 1965-2005, Ireland, 2006, no.89, p.89, illustrated.

All prices exclude custom clearance fees which, where appropriate, will be charged directly to the client by your receiving courier, importer or government.
Height 3.4 cm / 1 12"
Width 7.8 cm / 3 14"
Depth 2.25 cm / 1"

20th Century






Ireland, Republic of

Collectors / Designers



Modern (Of the period)