Catalogue entry

T03267 HARE AND HELMET II 1981

Not inscribed
Bronze, 49 5/8 × 20 1/4 × 24 (126 × 52 × 61)
Presented by the Sainsbury Charitable Fund through the Friends of the Tate Gallery 1981
Exh XL Venice Biennale, June–September 1982 (British pavilion 49, repr.); Barry Flanagan: Stone and Bronze Sculptures, Museum Haus Esters, Krefeld, October–December 1982 (20) and Whitechapel Art Gallery, January–February 1983 (22); New Art, Tate Gallery, September–October 1983 (works not numbered, repr.)
Lit: Barry Flanagan: Sculpture (British Council 1982), book published on occasion of the XL Venice Biennale, Tim Hilton p.14, Michael Compton pp.27–8, repr.in colour p.61; Teresa Gleadowe, catalogue of the Flanagan exhibition at the Biennale, n.p.; catalogue of the exhibition Barry Flanagan: Sculptures, Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, March–May 1983, Catherine Lampert p.11 and Bernard Blistère p.19
Repr: Barry Flanagan: Sculptures in Bronze, Waddington Galleries, 1981, p.6

The first appearance of an image of a hare in Barry Flanagan's work seems to have been in a drawing dating from October or November 1979, of a double-ended hare leaping over a pair of tortoises (see Michael Compton, op.cit.); this drawing was the basis of the image (in which the tortoises were replaced by a pyramid) on the cover of a catalogue of stone sculptures by Flanagan, published by the Waddington Galleries in 1980. The last plate in that book shows ‘Leaping Hare Embellished’ (private collection), a gilded gesso hare on a pyramid of crossed red wooden battens, dating from January 1980; this work was included in Flanagan's exhibition Sculptures in Stone 1973–1979 at the Waddington Galleries in April–May 1980. A variant of this work is ‘Leaping Hare’ 1981 in which a gilded bronze hare rests on a pyramid of crossed blue wooden battens (collection Southampton Art Gallery). Another ‘Leaping Hare’ 1980, in which a bronze hare rests on a pyramid of crossed brass battens was made in an edition of three. In 1982 Flanagan made a leaping hare 9 ft. long, resting on a pyramid of metal battens, for exhibition at Documenta at Kassel that year. This work was made in an edition of 4 plus one artist's proof; one of the 4 was gilded as was the artist's proof.

On 15 August 1980 the compiler of this entry (David Brown) accompanied Flanagan on a visit to Edinburgh in connection with an exhibition of his work at the New 57 Gallery as part of the Edinburgh Festival. On 19 August Flanagan and the compiler visited Glasgow to see work by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, including the Glasgow School of Art. The last place they visited in Glasgow was the City Art Gallery and Museum; there the compiler drew Flanagan's attention to a Milanese suit of armour dating from c. 1455 and bought him a postcard showing the armour, and a few days later sent the sculptor a postcard showing a Corinthian helmet in the Barber Institute, Birmingham. About three and a half weeks after the visit to Scotland Flanagan sent the compiler a letter dated 13 September in which he wrote ‘My safari with you came out with a winning - the Gothic Armour c. 1460 you presented [sic] inspired a standing hare. It's a kind of boxing stance but just as if it stood for a second on a hill to see.’ On the letter was a sketch of a hare standing on a helmet. The helmet is close in design to that of the Milanese armour. Philip J. Lankester, of the Department of Archaeology, Ethnography and History of Glasgow Art Gallery and Museum, has pointed out (letter of 18 November 1981, Tate Gallery files) that the helmet of the Milanese armour is not strictly speaking a helmet but is of a type called a barbut.

Flanagan's first hare on a helmet ‘Hare and Helmet I’ 1980 was executed between September and December 1980. In 1981 he made two more, ‘Hare and Helmet II’ and ‘Hare and Helmet III’. In all three of the ‘Hare and Helmet’ series the hare is identical, though there are variations in the helmets. When he made the helmets Flanagan had no particular helmet in mind.

In an interview with Judith Bumpus quoted in Barry Flanagan: Sculpture published by the British Council on the occasion of Flanagan's exhibition at the 1982 Venice Biennale, p.93 Flanagan said of his sculptures of hares: ‘The stone carvings tend to be abstract, dealing in form and the bronze tends to be figurative. And the chosen subject, the surrogate figure, is the hare...With the bronzes, I'm not interested in modelling, I seem to pursue shape and form as an abstract constituent in sculpture almost exclusively in stone, whereas the bronze work is the result of another set of ideas really: the themes are evocative of a human situation of activity. These beasts are always doing something, sporting in one way or another. The actual figure-the figure of the hare- is described in the armature. Now there's very little drawing that's going to help you stitch, weld an armature together which is going to be correct - you've got to do it there and then, weld it here, bend if there, to make an armature that's going to be the vehicle, and of course the content has to be in that armature before you begin work.

'Thematically the choice of the hare is really quite a rich and expressive sort of mode; the conventions of the cartoon and the investment of human attributes into the animal world is a very well practised device, in literature and film etc., and is really quite poignant, and on a practical level, if you consider what conveys situation and meaning and feeling in a human figure, the range of expression is in fact far more limited than the device of investing an animal-a hare especially-with the expressive attributes of a human being. The ears, for instance, are really able to convey far more than a squint in an eye of a figure, or a grimace on the face of a model.’

Flanagan told the compiler that his hares have nothing at all to do with Kit Williams' book Masquerade (1979, Jonathan Cape) which contains riddles, the correct solution of which led to the whereabouts of a golden hare buried in the ground.

A book of great interest to Flanagan is The Leaping Hare by George Ewart Evans and David Thomson (1972, Faber and Faber); this book deals with the hare in the life of the countryside, in tradition, mythology and literature.

A list of Flanagan's hare sculptures as at 30 November 1983 (possibly not quite complete and not necessarily in exact chronological order) is as follow:

1. ‘Leaping Hare Embellished’ January 1980
Gilded gesso on a red wooden base, 27 5/8 × 42 1/2 × 9 7/8in.
Unique (private collection)

2. ‘Leaping Hare’ 1980
Bronze on brass base, 27 1/2 × 42 1/8 × 9 7/8in.
Edition of 3 (private collections)

3. ‘Untitled’ 1980
Bronze, 38 × 38in.
Hare attached to bronze bell by narrow band of metal on rim of bell
Unique (private collection)

4. ‘Hare and Helmet I’ 1980
Bronze, 47in. high
Unique (private collection)

5. ‘Leaping Hare’ 1981
Gilded bronze hare on a red wooden base, 27 1/2in. high
Unique (Southampton Art Gallery)

6. ‘Hare and Helmet II’ 1981
Bronze, 49 5/8in. high
Unique (Tate Gallery)

7. ‘Hare and Helmet III’ 1981
Bronze, 46in. high
Unique (private collection)

8. ‘Hare and Bell’ 1981
Bronze, 51 3/4in. high
Unique (private collection)

9. ‘The Boxing Ones’ 1981
Bronze, 34in. high
Unique (private collection)

10. ‘Ball and Claw (Hare on Portland Stone)’ 1981
Bronze and Portland stone, 43in. high
Edition of up to 7

11. ‘Anvil’ 1981
Bronze, 40 1/8in. high
Edition of up to 7, each with slight differences in the hares
Hare standing on an anvil, facing the tip of the anvil

12. ‘Defender’ 1981
Bronze, 40 1/2in. high
Unique (private collection)
Hare standing on an anvil, facing away from the tip of the anvil

13. ‘Acrobats’ 1981
Bronze, 60 1/2 × 16 1/4 × 18in.
Edition of 3 plus 1 artist's proof

14. ‘Cricketer’ 1981
Bronze, 61 3/8 × 15 1/4 × 21in.
Edition of up to 7 plus 1 artist's proof
One owned by the British Council and another by Leeds City Art Gallery

15. ‘Nine Foot Hare’ 1982
Bronze, c. 8ft. high, c. 9ft. wide
Edition of 4 plus 1 artist's proof (one of the 4 and the artist's proof are gilded)

16. ‘Three Legged Race’ 1982
Bronze, 8 5/8 × 10 × 5 1/4in.
Unique (private collection)

17. ‘Three Hare Candelabra’ 1982

Bronze, 43 3/8 × 20 × 14in. Unique

18. ‘Hare Weather Vane’ 1983
Gold-plated mild steel, 60in. long Unique

19. ‘Hare on Bell’ 1983
Bronze, 113 × 94in.
Edition of 3 plus 1 artist's proof

20. ‘Hare on Elephant’ 1983
Bronze, 28 × 17 × 8 7/8in.
Edition of 17

This catalogue entry, approved by Barry Flanagan, is based in part on several conversations between him and the compiler in 1981, 1982 and 1983.

Hester van Royen of Waddington Galleries Ltd gave much of the information on Flanagan's series of sculptures on the theme of the hare.


Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1980-82: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1984