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1925 - 2006.


Ian Hamilton Finlay was born in the Bahamas in 1925 and was sent home to boarding school in Scotland at the age of six. His strong sense of himself as an artist was well established by his mid teens, and besides paintings and prints, his early work included short stories, plays and poems.

His first book, published in 1958, was The Sea Bed and Other Stories , followed in 1961 by his collection of poems The Dancers Inherit the Party. In that same year he co-founded the Wild Hawthorn Press, which for some years published works by such poets as Louis Zukofsky and Lorine Neidecker, as well as the poetry magazine Poor. Old. Tired. Horse.. From his short-lived but influential Wild Flounder Press he produced the best-selling Glasgow Beasts an a Burd Haw an Inseks an Aw a Fush, a collection of poems in the Glasgow dialect based on the Japanese tanka form.

The Wild Hawthorn, still flourishing today, became the vehicle for his own highly prolific and varied output of poem cards, posters, booklets and small objects.
During the early sixties he became interested in Concrete poetry, in which the placing of words is not dictated by syntax, instead laying out on the page an image which discloses its meaning by juxtaposing sounds, shapes or references.

Worldwide, his works are held in major collections and more than fifty of his installations can be seen in public places. He holds two honorary doctorates and an honorary professorship from Scottish universities. In 1991 he was presented with a bust of Saint-Just by the Communist Party of France and in 2002 he was appointed CBE by the Queen in the New Year's Honours list.

Ian Hamilton Finlay at Little Sparta, 1994

Photograph by
Jürgen Röhrscheid
© Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

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Photographs by Andrew Lawson except where noted