Barry Flanagan (b. 1941, Prestatyn, North Wales; d. 2009, Ibiza, Spain) is most recognised for his bronze sculptures of hares, but started out as a minimalist sculptor working with sand, plaster, wood and rope. He participated in some of the most important exhibitions of the 1960s, notably When Attitudes Become Form at the Kunsthalle Bern and the ICA (1969). Flanagan began to work in stone and bronze and in 1979 the first bronze hare was cast. Variously inspired by a carcass in a butcher’s shop, the sight of a leaping hare in the Sussex Downs, the 1972 book ‘The Leaping Hare’, as well as its significance in world mythology, the hare became the central metaphor of Flanagan’s life and work. Often anthropomorphised, the hares’ expressions range from insouciance, through boredom and melancholia, as they drum, think, dance, box and leap. Peripatetic, Flanagan described himself as an English-speaking itinerant European sculptor.
Flanagan studied at Birmingham College of Art and Crafts before going on to St. Martin’s School of Art in London in 1964. Between 1967 and 1971 he taught at St. Martin’s School of Art and the Central School of Arts and Crafts. Flanagan represented Great Britain at the Venice Biennale in 1982. In 1991, Flanagan was elected to the Royal Academy of Arts and awarded an OBE. A major retrospective was held at the Fundación ‘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, notably on Park Avenue in New York in 1995–6 and at Grant Park, Chicago in 1996. An exhibition was held at Tate Liverpool in 2000 and in 2002, a major exhibition of his work was shown at the Kunsthalle Recklinghausen, Germany. This subsequently toured to the Musée d’art moderne et d’art contemporain, Nice. In 2006, Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane and the Irish Museum of Modern Art held a major retrospective of his work which included an exhibition of large scale sculptures on O’Connell Street. In 2011 a collection of articles written by Barry Flanagan, Alistair Jackson and Rudy Leenders during their time at St Martin’s School of Art in 1964–1965 was published as Silâns. In 2012 Chatsworth House hosted an exhibition of Flanagan’s monumental bronze sculptures in a parkland setting. In the same year the Tate Britain held an important survey of his early works entitled Barry Flanagan: Early works 1965–1982.