Barry Flanagan R.A. (British, b.1941) Large Leaping Hare 275 cm. (108 1/4 in.) wide (Conceived in 1982)
Lot 93† AR
Barry Flanagan R.A.
(British, b.1941)
Large Leaping Hare 275 cm. (108 1/4 in.) wide
Sold for £ 311,200 (US$ 413,499) inc. premium

Lot Details
Barry Flanagan R.A. (British, b.1941)
Large Leaping Hare
bronze on steel base with a green patina
275 cm. (108 1/4 in.) wide
Conceived in 1982


  • Provenance:
    Purchased directly from the artist in 1982

    Kassel, Documenta 7, 1982 (another cast)
    Paris, Pompidou Centre, Barry Flanagan: Sculptures, 16 March - 9 May 1983, no.88 (another cast)
    Dublin, Irish Museum of Modern Art, Barry Flanagan, Sculpture 1965-2005, 28 June - 24 September 2006 (another cast)

    Enrique Juncosa (Ed.), Barry Flanagan, Sculpture 1965-2005, Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, 2006 (ill.col.p.87, another cast illustrated)

    It is well documented that Barry Flanagan cast his first hare the 7th of November of 1979, the very same year in which he started making sculpture in bronze in A & A Sculpture Casting, the foundry that Andy Elton and Henry Abercrombie had just formed in London. This happened after thirteen years of artistic practice that would have hardly suggested this possibility. From 1965 to 1972, Flanagan had made a fascinating and diverse group of works using unorthodox materials, like sand, hessian, felt, rope, furniture, cellos, wooden sticks or projected light frames. These works, which could perhaps be referred to as conceptual, were sometimes of an ephemeral nature, contrasting with the metal works of the previous generation of British sculptors, which included Anthony Caro or Philip King, and indeed Flanagan’s later bronzes. The artist declared that while doing his early works, often related to processes, he was merely allowing the materials to achieve sculptural awareness. Later on, from 1973 to 1980, Flanagan worked mainly with stone – such as marble, sandstone or Horton - which he used in a quite a rough manner, with little intervention of the chisel, relying often in the expressiveness of its particular surfaces. These works could loosely be described as abstract. Both groups of work received immediate critical acclaim and launched Flanagan’s international career. He participated soon in major exhibitions in museums in Europe, the USA and Japan.

    It was at this stage, in any case, that Flanagan started modelling, pursuing at first two different directions. In 1981 and 1982, and at the same time that he was producing his first bronzes, Flanagan made some abstract carvings, which were scaled up by assistants from small models he had done in clay. Soon, however, he was concentrating solely on bronze. The process of making the bronze sculptures also involved assistants, a system of work which the artist obviously enjoyed, and which he has continued to use ever since. The first bronzes tended to be figurative and were modest in scale. By 1982, however, Barry Flanagan had made some large scale bronze works, some of which, like Large Leaping Hare, were exhibited in the Documenta 7 in Kassel (1982), or in his major retrospective in the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris the following year. These monumental works were to become his major achievement as an artist. Since then his family of hares – other animals like horses, cougars or unicorns are less frequent - has grown a great deal, forming one of the most popular and immediately recognisable motifs in the contemporary art world. It is also perhaps one of the most intriguing, relating to a greater tradition which goes from the Greeks and the masters of the Renaissance to Rodin and Surrealism. At the same time these hares seem to laugh at this tradition, questioning the pretentiousness that may appear in critical discourse. The hare also makes us think of popular cartoons, which we normally regard as low culture, adding yet another discordant cord to its relation to the great tradition.

    Flanagan has often mentioned his interest in the work of the French author Alfred Jarry (1873-1907), whose work forms an essential bridge between Symbolism in the 1880s and the early avant-gardes. In English, Jarry is best known as the author of Ubu Roi, a play which has fascinated many Modern artists from Marcel Duchamp and Joan Miró to David Hockney. Jarry was also the founder of "Pataphysics", the science of imaginary solutions, which conforms a humorous attack to the traditional bourgeois prestige of morals, religion and logic. Flanagan's hares have often been seen as heirs to this critique, or at least, as symbols of the freedom of the artist. His hares dance, play music, wrestle, perform acrobatics, pose as thinkers or practice sports, adopting, most of the time, human attributes. They do all of these things standing over objects like crosses and half moons; anvils, pyramids, helmets and bells; skyscrapers or computers; which can also be seen as symbols of religions, Science or the technical achievements of the so-called civilizations. The leaping hare which is one of the most recurrent ones, and exists over several different bases, is maybe the easiest one to see as a symbol, leaping higher and over anything that we have ever achieved. However, obliquity is always present, as well as wit and humour, and one should make any interpretation with caution.

    Using the hares as human surrogates, rather than sculpting human bodies, Flanagan has gone beyond the constraints of academicism while dealing with the figure. He has also freed his work from immediate sentiments or even explicit references to sexuality. The hares, on the other hand, have also the energy of line drawings, expressing movement, vitality and action, and suggesting speed, dynamism, tension and lightness. They are ultimately about disequilibrium, paradox and instability. The fact that they are made in bronze adds then perhaps another level of irony. In this context, Large Leaping Hare must be considered an early masterpiece of this clever, witty, subversive, and above all, highly engaging artist.

    Enrique Juncosa

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  • This work is from an edition of four. There is VAT at 17.5% on hammer price and buyer's premium.
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