Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Art History


Gail Levin

Committee Members

Sally Webster

Katherine Manthorne

Joan Marter

Subject Categories

History of Art, Architecture, and Archaeology


The sculptor John B. Flannagan was one of the most prominent artists of the nineteen twenties and thirties in the United States, principally as a proponent of direct carving. In the intervening years since the publication of his artist's statement, "The Image in the Rock" (1941), and the present, his articulation of this technique has come to stand almost as a manifesto of direct carving. However, Flannagan's name and oeuvre—which consists not only of works of sculpture but also of works on paper—are now very little known, despite two dissertations completed on the artist in the nineteen sixties. This dissertation examines the reasons for the decline in his name recognition and attempts to reconnect his life and work to the events and writings of his time. Enlarging the range of inquiry beyond Flannagan's involvement with "primitivism," this dissertation also explores the complex nature of Flannagan's spirituality and its connection to his psychology and upbringing. Flannagan's feelings about himself and his world were inseparable from his artistic expression. His depictions of religious figures, family groups, and animals reflect not only a sensitivity toward nature and the interconnectedness of life but also an intense subjectivity and anxiety. In addition to African art and traditional Christian symbolism, Flannagan also drew on writings about mysticism by Evelyn Underhill, as well as Eastern individualist thinkers such as Ananda Coomaraswamy and Kahlil Gibran. Guided by his principle dealer, Carl Zigrosser of the Weyhe Gallery, as well as artist-acquaintances such as John Mowbray-Clarke and Adolf Dehn, Flannagan worked to meld a variety of influences, some personal, some cultural, into a highly individual form of artistic expression.


Digital reproduction from the UMI microform; no illustrations included.