Barry Flanagan


1972, reprinted c.1983

View this artwork by appointment, at Tate Britain's Prints and Drawings Rooms

Etching on paper
Image: 203 x 251 mm
Presented by Sue Flanagan, the artist's former wife 1985

Catalogue entry

This catalogue entry discusses a group of works; details of the individual work are given at the end of the introductory text.

Barry Flanagan born 1941

P02723 - P02834 Group of 112 etchings and linocuts, various sizes. Presented by the artist’s former wife Sue Flanagan 1985

This group of prints represents nearly the entire printed output of the artist up to 1983 and is one of the largest public collections of his prints. The titles were all given by the artist. Those prints bearing the stamped monogram ‘f’ were stamped by the Tate Gallery at the artist’s request.

The artist has said that print-making represents for him a ‘traditional pursuit’. Flanagan began to make prints in 1970. His prints (and drawings) often have a very personal content and can be seen as akin to private memoranda. Sometimes used as gifts for friends, they record aspects of the artist’s personal life. He first published prints with the Rowan Gallery in 1972, a year in which his print-making was prolific. Thereafter he published series of prints with Bernard Jacobson Gallery in 1976 and Waddington Graphics in 1983.

In 1981 Flanagan exhibited a comprehensive range of his prints and drawings at the Mostyn Art Gallery, Llandudno. The exhibition travelled to Mold, Cardiff, Swansea, Southampton and London and then, in 1983, toured in Italy, France and Holland. In the early 1980s Colin Dyer, working with the artist in his studio, completed archival sets of prints using cream Vélin d’Arches paper. Those etchings in the Sue Flanagan donation printed on white paper are generally those which the artist printed at Petersburg Press, at Burleighfield Press (with David Harding) or in his own studio in the early and mid 1970s.

Many of the prints have a small dark rectangle at one of their edges which results from the etching process. David Brown explains:

In the preparation of etching plates, they are ‘smoked’ in a flame to produce a fine, even covering of wax, the plate being held by a pair of tongs and therefore unaffected by the ‘smoking’ process would be waxed later, but with these prints, Flanagan chose to eliminate this final stage leaving a small area etched by acid and absorbing the ink (Barry Flanagan: Etchings and Linocuts, exh. cat., Waddington Graphics 1984, [p.3]).

So characteristic of Flanagan’s etchings is this black mark, it can almost be seen as a second ‘signature’.

These entries are based on conversations with Sue Flanagan and Colin Dyer and have been approved by the artist.

P02769 Numbers 1972, reprinted c.1983

Etching 203 x 251 (8 x 9 7/8) on cream Vélin d'Arches paper 381 x 568 (15 1/8 x 22 3/8); plate-mark 203 x 251 (8 x 9 7/8); watermark ‘ARCHES | FRANCE'; printed by Colin Dyer c.1983; not editioned
Not inscribed; stamped with the artist's monogram ‘f' below image b.r.
Lit: [Elizabeth Knowles (ed.)], Barry Flanagan Prints 1970-1983, exh. cat., Tate Gallery, 1986, p.29

The forward-reading numerals on the left hand side of the print were etched in reverse whilst the numbers on the right hand side of the print were etched twice to create a deeper bite in the plate. The artist has said that he was concerned in making this etching to watch the acid biting into the metal plate. It was an ‘experiment' decked out with ‘a dramatic approach'.

The mirroring of the left and right sides of the image can perhaps be seen as a visual equivalent of the literary device of a palindrome. If so, the image reflects some of the concerns of Concrete poets, such as Bob Cobbing, with whom Flanagan was acquainted in the mid 1960s. Of Flanagan's debt to these poets Catherine Lampert has written:

Cobbing's ... work explored the shifts of meaning which occur when mundane symbols like the alphabet are reorganised individually and in the configurations of palindromes or anacyclics, in other words the manipulative potentials of typography freed from semantic rules. Flanagan's work takes on the visual aspects of three-dimensional building blocks with the same touch of anarchy and wit (Barry Flanagan, exh. cat., Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven 1977, [p.15]).

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1984-86: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions Including Supplement to Catalogue of Acquisitions 1982-84, Tate Gallery, London 1988, pp.333 and 344