John Bernard Flannagan endured great hardship in his life. His father died when he was five, leaving his family in such poverty that Flannagan’s mother sent all of her sons to an orphanage. It was here that Flannagan began carving with a pocketknife. When he was nineteen, he studied at the Minneapolis School of Arts while working three different jobs to support his mother and brothers. He then moved to New York, where he slept in the subways and hunted desperately for work until the artist Arthur B. Davies found him a job. Flannagan chose humbler, less romantic subjects for his sculptures and often worked on a small scale, describing his pieces as “miniature monuments.” In 1939 he was hit by a car and needed four operations to remove the blood clots from his brain. His reduced capacity to work and increasing problems with alcoholism caused him to commit suicide just three years later.