2017-11-22-2018-10-15 --- 2018-10-15 10:36:56--18
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LOT :30
Philip Flanagan (b.1960)
Estimate EUR : €5,000.00 - €7,000.00
Auction Date : 22-11-2017


Philip Flanagan (b.1960)

Portrait Bust of Seamus Heaney
Bronze on limestone base, 31.5 x 57cm overall (12½ x 22½'')

Signed with artist's device and signed AC (Artist's Copy), edition of 9

Signed also by poet Seamus Heaney and dated 1990 on plaque inside


Provenance: The Eamonn Mallie Collection, bought from Shambles Gallery, Hillsborough.


If knowing your sitter as a sculptor stands for anything then there was no excuse for Philip Flanagan not unlocking the soul of Seamus Heaney. TP Flanagan, Sheelagh his wife, Seamus Heaney and his wife Marie had been friends for over half a century. Terry responded to Heaney's poems in paint and vice versa and TP's son Philip, who trained as a sculptor at Camberwell College in England, would have known Seamus Heaney from childhood.


I purchased this Heaney (AP) head from Sheelagh Flanagan in the early Nineties. I had no reticence in parting with my money. I had met Heaney several times down the years and despite the fact that our legs hung out of the same nest in many ways, we did not get beyond a passing acquaintance. I loved the way Flanagan latched onto Heaney's rural ruggedness and his unruly head of hair. The artist didn't play at nicey niceyǪ..he went rural.

I had a discussion with the Irish sculptor Rowan Gillespie about when is the right time to paint or sculpt a head. He contends this is a matter of judgement. Gillespie lamented he had not had the opportunity to sculpt Polish Pope John Paul II, not as the handsome fatherly figure he was when he surfaced firstly, but as he was dying in public wracked with disease. Over the years I have seen some very poor sculptural attempts at winning the essence of Heaney. Flanagan left me with no doubts in his choice of timing to capture Heaney. For some time Heaney's head has faced motionlessly out into our street as its maker Flanagan walks by. I wonder what thoughts go through Philip's head? Perhaps he will share those thoughts with me one day. I will not have that luxury in the case of Heaney.

My neighbour who went to Annahorish Primary School attended by Heaney, told me "The day Seamus Heaney was leaving our school our teacher Mrs Murphy told us 'a genius' is leaving our school today. I still find it hard to believe, having penned the words 'Noli timere, the book closed on this genius son of a South Derry farmer. Think however of what Heaney left us in 'Cure at Troy.'

So hope for a great sea-change

On the far side of revenge.

Believe that further shore

Is reachable from here.

Believe in miracle

And cures and healing wells.

Eamonn Mallie



Beneath my finger and my thumb
My snug pen rests

Under my windows, a clean rasping sound
When the spade sinks into gravelly ground
My father digging, I look down

Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds
Bends low, comes up twenty years away
Stooping in rhythm through potato drills
Where he was digging

The coarse boot nestled against the leg, the shaft
Against the inside knee, was levered firmly
He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep
To scatter new potatoes that we picked
Loving their cool hardness in our hands

By God the old man could handle a spade
Just like his old man

My grandfather cut more turf in a day
Than any other man on Toners Bog
Once I carried him milk in a bottle
Corked sloppily with paper. He straightened up
To drink it, then fell to it right away
Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods
Over his shoulder, going down for the good turf,

The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap
Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge
Through living roots awaken in my head
But Ive no spade to follow men like them

Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
Ill dig with it.


Seamus Heaney, "Digging" from Death of a Naturalist, 1966


This head of Seamus Heaney was made in the cottage at Roughra in August 1990. Seamus Heaney agreed to sit with me and we made it up in Donegal. There were three sittings for the head, each sitting lasting two hours. I decided that, because I had such a limited time to make the head, I would make it more like a large charcoal drawing, in that I would keep everything very general very loose kind of modelling, but at the same time a tight framework of measurement under the surface, so that the head would not sway away from my intentions to get a likeness and to express Seamus Heaneys personality.

In Seamus Heaneys head, I am particularly pleased with the modelling of the hair. As this head was sculpted in 1990, this was a kind of breakthrough for me in terms of the way I was modelling. Before that, I had been tutored in a very academic kind of way, but the Heaney head was a departure in that I really buttered the clay on, giving a casual feeling to the hair, but at the same time strong directional lines so that it is quite a forceful piece of modelling. The way that the clay is modelled also reminds me of bog cuts. Around the cottage in Donegal, we are surrounded by bog and it gives me great pleasure to walk in the bog and let the feeling of that dark solid earth take over. I find it very sculptural. This head has a classical feel to it and I hope it gives the impression of Heaney as a bog king.


Philip Flanagan



Hammer Price : €11,500.00
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