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John F. Flanagan

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John F. Flanagan
American Sculptor
American, (1865–1952)
John F. Flanagan was born in Newark, NJ in 1865, the son of local marble sculptor, George Flanagan. At a young age, he began developing a talent for sculpting and modeling and began his studies at the Cooper Union and the Art Students League in NYC. In 1890, he went to Paris where he trained in academic figural studies at the ateliers of Leon Bonnat and Alexandre Falguiere at the Ecole des Beaux Arts. In Paris, he worked with Frederick MacMonnies on the decorative parts of the Columbian Fountain for the 1893 Chicago World's Fair. He also sculpted the eagles for the National Pavilion, Exposition Universelle in Paris, 1900.

Flanagan was best known for medallic art and relief portraiture. He received special recognitions in France including various student medals at the Ecole-des-Beaux-Arts and the Academy Colarossi. In 1921, he was named a Chevalier de la Legion d'Honneur for the Verdun Medal he designed for the US to give to France.

In 1902, he returned to NYC focusing on medallic art. From 1908, Flanagan began exhibiting at the National Academy, typically showing frames of medals. He did many commissions for the Medallic Art Company including the American Friends of Lafayette Medal (1943), Augustus Saint-Gaudens Plaquette (1937), Edward Guthrie Kennedy Medal (1912), Mark Twain Centennial Plaquette (1935), School Art League of NYC Merit Award Medal (1915), and Frederic William MacMonnies Plaquette (1929). For the US Mint, he created the Panama-Pacific International Exposition Medal (1915). In 1937, he completed an official seal for the National Academy of Design.

In 1944, he began four seasons of teaching at the Academy School, and from 1948 to 1949, taught for another year.

Also for the US Mint was his most famous work (and subject of a controversy regarding a female artist), the Washington U.S. quarter dollar coin, which was issued in 1932. Flanagan designed both sides of the quarter. Flanagan's initials can be found at the base of Washington's neck. His original design for the quarter continued through 1998, after which the new "State Quarter" series resulted in the modification of Flanagan's portrait of Washington and the removal altogether of the reverse design.

His most famous monumental work is the large clock with the figures Reader and Writer installed in the main reading room of the Library of Congress in Washington D.C. He also did life-size statuary such as the physicist, Joseph Henry in Albany, and relief portraits of prominent persons including fellow artists Paul Bartlett, Daniel French, Frederick MacMonnies and Julian Weir.

Flanagan’s medals can be seen at Musee du Jeu de Paume, Paris, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Newark Museum, the St. Louis Art Museum (AKA the City Art Museum), the Carnegie Institute, and the Library of Congress. Various memorials are located at the Free Public Library in Newark, the Department of Agriculture in Washington, D.C., the Aetna Life Insurance Building in Hartford, Connecticut, and the School of Albany, New York.

Considering the excellence of his career, particularly the design of coinage, "it was a sad irony that, according to his obituaries, Flanagan died penniless at New York City Hospital on Welfare Island." (Dearinger, page 196)

David Dearinger, Paintings and Sculpture in the Collection of the National Academy of Design, 1826-1925, Hudson Hills, 2004.
Official Illustrated Catalogue, Fine Arts Exhibit, United States of America, Paris Exposition of 1900. Noyes, Platt & Company, Boston, 1900.
Information provided by Edward P. Bentley, researcher of Lansing, Michigan.
Susan Luftschein, One Hundred Years of American Medallic Art, 1845 0 1945:The John E. Marquesee Collection, Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, 1995

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