Born in Prestatyn, North Wales in 1941 to a family of music hall performers, Flanagan studied at Birmingham College of Arts and Crafts and at Central Saint Martins in London where he sporadically worked as a builder and a baker filling doughnuts to fund his studies. Like his fellow students Bruce McLean and Gilbert & George, Flanagan rejected the prevailing conventions of sculpture; instead he embraced cloth, canvas and sand in his work which immediately gained widespread attention.
Flanagan’s later pieces were crafted from more conventional materials and he became renowned for his colossal bronze sculptures of bells, horses and leaping hares. A bohemian figure, in 1983, he celebrated a retrospective show at the Centre Pompidou by taking his foundry team – and his local publican – on an all-expenses-paid weekend to Paris. In 1991, he was elected to membership of London's Royal Academy of Arts and was presented with an OBE.
After his death in 2009, Tate Britain staged a major survey of Flanagan's early works. The Estate of Barry Flanagan is dedicated to the exploration of Flanagan's practice.
Photography courtesy Fabrice Gibet