Barry Flanagan

Diagram of a Conversation, George Melly


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Barry Flanagan 1941–2009
Etching on paper
Image: 245 × 192 mm
plate: 245 × 192 mm
support: 398 × 305 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.

P02749 Diagram of a Conversation, George Melly 1972

Etching 245 x 192 (9 5/8 x 7 1/2) on paper 398 x 305 (15 5/8 x 12); plate-mark 245 x 192 (9 5/8 x 7 1/2); printed by the artist; not editioned
Printed inscription ‘diagram | of a conversation' b.r. of image; stamped with the artist's monogram ‘f' below image b.r.

One of three portraits of the blues singer and patron of the arts, George Melly (see also P02752-P02753). In a letter to the compiler dated 23 March 1988, George Melly writes:

I have been a friend of Barry's for a long time now. I think we originally met when he came to listen to me at Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club one Christmas and I declared an enthusiasm for his work, namely at that time, the heaps of blankets, the rope and the stones.

He asked me sometime later to sit for the etchings which took place at his house in Kentish Town. I think altogether I went there twice. He completed the single face with cigarette ... at one sitting and the other two heads at another. He gave it the title ‘Diagram of a conversation' I imagine simply because we talked a great deal during the sittings.

During one sitting George Melly made an etching of Barry Flanagan, ‘The artist by his sitter, George Melly'. Like P02743 ‘Bungo the Elephant by Tara', this print is considered by the artist to be part of his oeuvre and was exhibited as such in Sixties and Seventies: Prints and Drawings by Barry Flanagan, an exhibition held at the Mostyn Art Gallery, Llandudno in 1981 (no.112).

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 340

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