- Barry Flanagan
- Nijinsky Hare
stamped with the foundry mark AA London and numbered 3/5
- 244 by 146 by 93cm.; 96 by 57 1/2 by 36 5/8 in.
- Executed in 1985, this work is number 3 from an edition of 5.
The Pace Gallery, New York
Acquired directly from the above by the present owner in 1987
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"Thematically the choice of the hare is quite a rich and expressive sort of model; the conventions of the cartoon and the investment of human attributes into the animal world is a very well practised device... and is really quite poignant.. [.] 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." (The artist cited in: Barry Flanagan: A Visual Invitation Sculpture 1967-1987, Tyne and Wear 1987. p. 49)
Executed in 1985, Flanagan's iconic Nijinsky Hare is an animated interpretation of the famous Russian ballet dancer Vaslav Nijinsky. The present work epitomizes Flanagan's expressive play with anthropomorphism, where Nijinsky's spectacular leaps, soaring jumps and delicate gestures are immortalised in bronze on a monumental scale. Nijinsky was renowned for his incredible gift of rising and seeming to remain in the air. He inspired numerous films, plays, books and pieces of artwork alike and, during his short-lived yet genius career, he grasped popular imagination across the world. Here, Flanagan captures the featherweight lightness and steel-like strength of his subject, elegantly balanced on one leg, with ears flailing mid-movement and arms poised for his next dramatic gesture.
The 1980s were a period of intense artistic activity and critical success for Flanagan. In 1982 he was selected to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale, and throughout the decade his artistic language was to mature and evolve, culminating in the creation of this monumental Nijinsky Hare. Tim Hilton writes of the symbolism implicit in Flanagan's choice of the hare in the catalogue that accompanied the Biennale: "This little beast, fast and fleeting, active in the spring, standing upright only for a second or two, can carry many of Flanagan's purposes. It is the consummation of the vein of humour in his art. But it also has serious artistic purposes as a vehicle for formal variations. I think we would be wrong not to recognise that there are numerous forms and attitudes taken by the hare that repeat a kind of classic modern figure sculpture. [...] It can be thought of as a personal, or a person; or as a symbol for a person; or as a symbol for some universal principle." (Exhibition Catalogue, London, The British Council, Barry Flanagan: Sculpture, 1982, p. 14) This animal, whose roots stem from mythology and folklore, still continues to preoccupy Flanagan's work today. It is the most whimsical of characters that holds an iconic simplicity, which is able to capture certain human qualities otherwise never explored artistically.