John B. Flannagan


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American sculptor, an isolated figure whose career was blighted by illness and poverty and ended in suicide. He was born at Fargo, North Dakota, and studied painting at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, 1914–17. In 1922 he was rescued from near destitution by Arthur B. Davies, at whose suggestion he took up woodcarving. About five years later he was attracted to the natural beauty of stone and he became a highly original exponent of direct carving in this medium. He preferred natural to quarried material, and for him part of the creative process lay in ‘seeing’ the image within the raw stone (in 1930–31 and 1932 he visited Ireland and drew special inspiration from some of the stones he found in remote areas there). He made a few portraits, but most of his subjects were taken from the animal world. His early work was rather tortured in style, fusing elements from Germanic Expressionism and medieval art. During the 1930s, however, his style broadened and became increasingly abstract, as he pared his work down to an intense, primordial simplicity (Triumph of the Egg, 1, MoMA, New York, 1937).

Subjects: Art.

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