Franklin

Correspondence with Carl Zigrosser, 1926-1942, n.d.

Author/Creator:
Flannagan, John Bernard, 1895?-1942.
Publication:
1926-1942, n.d.
Format/Description:
Manuscript
192 items (455 leaves).
Contained In:
Carl Zigrosser Papers, ca. 1891-1971. Folders 522-530.
Status/Location:
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Details

Subjects:
Colum, Padraic, 1881-1972.
Valentin, Curt, 1902-1954.
Flannagan, Margharita La Centra.
Brown, Stephen Luce.
Flannagan, Grace Briggs.
Summary:
The earliest correspondence concerns Flannagan's work on small pieces, sales, and exhibitions. Attentive and informative letters from 1928 written by Florence Rollins discuss Flannagan's problems in Woodstock, his inability to handle money or "behave decently," and his drinking. Miss Rollins had befriended Flannagan and let him live and work at her country place; her growing disillusionment is evident in her blunt letters. There are also reconciling letters from Flannagan to Rollins in the file that describe his life and his work. An exchange of letters from this time between Zigrosser and Juliana Force is the beginning of an informal alliance between the two to help arrange for sales of Flannagan's work.
Flannagan's own letters often give simple, philosophical statements about the motivation of his work, his choice of subject and material. There is also misleading biographical information, references to sales, and requests for funds. Mid 1929 letters make reference to Jo Davidson and Grace Briggs, John Flannagan's future wife. Some letters are addressed to Laura Canadé, an employee of Weyhe Gallery and Carl Zigrosser's second wife.
A March, 1930 contract sets up a purchase system at Weyhe, providing quarterly payments to Flannagan in return for the delivery of works of art. In June of 1930, Flannagan and his wife went to Ireland for a year's concerted work. Monthly letters give details about stone the available, setting up a household, his optimism about work and staying sober, financial arrangements, Ireland and the Irish, the complications of shipping his work, and the birth of his daughter. Flannagan's moods are quite changeable: each cheerful, optimistic letter full of plans is matched by one of nervous gloom full of plans, and another of miserable dejection. In April, 1931, the small family relocated to Paris, and in May of that year Grace and the baby left a horribly drunken Flannagan and returned to the United States.
There is a gap in the correspondence until the spring of 1932, which brings a flurry of legal notices attempting to put a lien on Flannagan's work at the Weyhe Gallery. The next few letters from Flannagan are from 1934 and describe his work in metal casting and some carving projects. Early 1935 brings letters from Bloomingdale, a psychiatric hospital in New York City, where Flannagan is undergoing treatment for alcohol addiction and mental problems. The letters are desperate and unguarded. Flannagan worries about never being able to sculpt again, the removal of his teeth, and expresses his bitterness towards his wife and pleads his case to Zigrosser. By October of 1935, Flannagan is out of the hospital and living in Boston with Margharita La Centra, sculpting and making sales. April of 1936 brings a long letter about Flannagan's plan to purchase an old stone farmhouse near Woodstock, N.Y. with barns for sculpting in -- the purchase of which would require financial help from Erhard Weyhe. Zigrosser tried unsuccessfully to solicite help from other sources, including Chauncey Stillman, a well-to-do collector. Stillman's response is negative, but compassionate about helping Flannagan solve his personal problems. Flannagan's work was selling well at the time, but his underlying weaknesses remained unresolved. The letters from this time are excitable, full of plans, loaded down with financial problems and excuses for slow work.
Letters from 1937 refer to Flannagan's hospitalization for a broken leg after he was struck by a car, and his recuperating in Ridgefield, Conn. at the home of Stephen Luce Brown. His work is slowed by his injury, and by the first symptoms of the recurring brain tumors that would complicate his last years. Other topics include a visit by Padraic Colum, Flannagan's feelings of lost time, his work on Jonah and the Whale (including a sketch of the sculpture), some comments on chemical coatings for his outdoor work, and the types and colors of stones he prefers. At this time, Flannagan's commission from the Fairmount Park Art Association of Philadelphia for his figure, the Miner, was coming to a head. A December, 1937 letter from Henri Marceau to Zigrosser reports of a meeting with the artist about the project at which Flannagan was not sober.
Hospitalizations and recoveries create gaps in the letters from Flannagan. In 1939, his reduced stamina results in Flannagan working with metal casting instead of stone, and letters report his exhaustion and struggle with sobriety, as well as the infrequent sales of his work. 1940 brings fatalistic letters in which Flannagan writes about having a retrospective and comments on his poverty and how it effects his work. In July of that year, a postcard reports the sale at auction of all tools in Flannagan's "erstwhile studio." A letter to Zigrosser from Domenico Mortellito suggests making reproductions of Flannagan's work to get money for the artist. Letters for 1941 include a typescript of Flannagan's letters to Curt Valentin of Buchholz Gallery arranging sales and an exhibition. Letters to Zigrosser mention setting up a new studio, projects and work completed, and thoughts about suicide. The 1941 correspondence with Zigrosser is slimmer, but still quite personal and bearing a tone of resignation. Flannagan killed himself in his New York studio on January 6, 1942.
Several folders of material follow the correspondence. Included are letters from various people involved with Flannagan, often resolving old conflicts. Not long after Flannagan's death, a Newsweek article characterized the Weyhe Gallery as profiteering from Flannagan during his lifetime. Letters between Erhard Weyhe, Laura Canadé and Carl Zigrosser record their initial dismay and defense of the Gallery's treatment of Flannagan. There are letters from researchers working on Flannagan. There is a folder of business receipts, a folder of clippings from magazines and newspapers, a folder of exhibition catalogs, a folder of comments and writings by Carl Zigrosser, and a folder of lists of Flannagan's sculptures.
Notes:
Carl Zigrosser and Weyhe Gallery had a long, fruitful and complicated association with sculptor John Flannagan. The letters from John Flannagan cover the years 1926 to 1941, a time when Weyhe Gallery had a non-exclusive arrangement to buy the artist's work. The letters are informative, revealing Flannagan both personally and professionally, covering both the progress of his work, and his struggle with alcoholism and mounting health problems.
Contributor:
Rollins, Florence A.
Force, Juliana, 1876-1948.
Weyhe, Erhard.
Marceau, Henri.
Stillman, Chauncey Devereux, 1907-
Mortellito, Domenico.
Weyhe Gallery.