Terence Philip Flanagan (1929-2011)

An Ulster Elegy (1971)

Oil on canvas

129cm x 191cm

Purchased with assistance from the Friends of Fermanagh County Museum. Kindly lent by Fermanagh County Museum.

Terence Philip Flanagan was born in Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh in 1929 and spent a great deal of his childhood near Lissadell in Co. Sligo. These natural landscapes, close in proximity but different from one another would have a profound influence on Flanagan’s work for the rest of his life.

In his teens, Flanagan took evening classes in drawing and painting under artist Kathleen Bridle at Enniskillen technical college. After a short spell at Queen’s University Belfast, he transferred his scholarship to the Belfast College of Art where he was taught by artist Romeo Toogood. In 1954, Flanagan became a full-time lecturer in art at St Mary’s College of Education, Belfast where he remained for almost thirty years. Alongside teaching, he pursued a career as a professional painter, becoming a regular exhibitor at the Royal Ulster Academy of Arts. After his first solo exhibition at Belfast’s Piccolo Gallery in 1958, he went on to show his work at the Royal Hibernian Academy, Dublin and the Royal Academy, London.

Flanagan was a close friend of the poet Seamus Heaney, who wrote the foreword to S.B. Kennedy’s book on the artist, saying of him - “as an artist, he has gone his own way, explored the Irish landscape and enhanced Irish landscape painting through the discovery and elaboration of an individual style, one that we now take so much for granted that we tend to forget that it had to be invented.”

Retrospective exhibitions of Flanagan’s work were organised by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland in 1997 and the Ulster Museum in 1996, the latter of which travelled to the Hugh Lane Gallery, Dublin and Fermanagh County Museum. While most of his work is in private collections, examples are held by the arts councils of Ireland and Northern Ireland, the Ulster Museum and the National Self-Portrait Collection, Limerick. Flanagan died suddenly while out walking in Belfast in 2011 and is buried in his hometown of Enniskillen.

As an artist, he avoided overt responses to the Northern Ireland troubles and only did so occasionally in an abstract and reflective manner. This piece, entitled An Ulster Elegy is an example of this approach - the imagery of the ghostly, highly conceptualised oil on canvas is described by the Dictionary of Irish Biography as “a metaphor for a blighted community in which people were frozen in inherited prejudices.”