Proposals by Ian Hamilton Finlay

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Last updated March 2017.



Project for a Monument to Saint-Just 5.85.5

Project for a Monument to Saint-Just
with Nicholas Sloan, 1985
letterpress, 100 copies
27.5 x 27.5 cm

5.85.6 5.85.6

Sea Coast after Claude Lorrain
with Gary Hincks, 1985
48.8 x 5.0 cm

5.85.7 5.85.7

Proposal for a Wall
with Gary Hincks, 1985
24.7 x 64.0 cm

5.85.8 5.85.8

Klassische Landschaft
with Gary Hincks, 1985
lithograph in folder
48.5 x 2.5 cm


Johann Christian Reinhart, Rome, 1811
Johann Christian Reinhart was born in Germany in 1761 and died in Rome. A painter of ideal landscape, he was a friend of the German romantic poet Schiller, and of the German romantic artists Carstens and Koch. 'Xaipe', (Greek), inscribed by the spring, is ambiguous and may mean either 'Hail' or 'Farewell' - in the sense of a salute to the dead. 'Ave' (in the alternative version of the landscape) is the Latin form of 'Xaipe', and has the same ambiguity. The 'W' which precedes it (at an eccentric distance) allows both 'Ave' and 'Wave' - sometimes a synonym for water, as in Collins's 'Where slowly winds the stealing WAVE', ('Ode on the Death of Mr. Thomson'). In Ian Hamilton Finlay's garden at Little Sparta is a stone inscribed with the 'one-word poem' WAVE / Ave.

The ambiguity in 'Xaipe' (and 'Ave') seems to be affirmed by the contrast between the fallen stones on the left of the landscape and the stones placed slightly closer to the viewer and forming the spring on the right. That is, the left-hand group may correspond to 'Farewell' and the right-hand to 'Hail'. The same ambiguity may be implicit in the gushing water - 'It scatters and again gathers; it forms and dissolves, and approaches and departs.' - Heraclitus.

5.85.9 5.85.9

Gateway to a Grove
with Michael Harvey, 1985
2 lithographs in folder
25.0 x 29.0 cm


'Implicit in the column is the natural tree, which was likewise inhabited by its nymph or dryad. Here, in place of the column, there is the pilaster, and the dryads are present in the 'distanced' form of the text derived from J.K.Lavater's 'Physiognomical Fragments' (1802). The design is based on that for a garden gateway by the Elizabethan architect Inigo Jones.'
5.86.1 5.86.1

The Temple of Bara
with Mark Stewart, 1986
300 copies
41.5 x 24.0 cm


'This 'post-modern' temple, which is also a bandstand, celebrates Bara, the martyred drummer boy. The columns are rusticated and the circular column-drums are given the appearance of a drummer boy's side drum, by means of simplified relief. Over the roof is an eccentrically large representation of the Revolution's cockade.'
5.86.4A 5.86.4 Six Proposals for the Improvement of Stockwood Park Nurseries in the Borough of Luton
with Gary Hincks, 1986
11 lithographs in folder
27.0 x 34.0 cm
5.86.4B   5.86.4C  
5.86.4D   5.86.4E  
Pope 5.86.5 A Variation on Lines by Pope
printed by The Stellar Press, 1986
lithograph in folder
150 copies
37.5 x 32.0 cm
5.86.7 5.86.7

Proposal for a Monument to Jean-Jacques Rousseau
with Gary Hincks, 1986
lithograph with fold-outs in folder
27.5 x 50.5 cm

5.86.8 5.86.8

Proposal for a Monument to Ludwig Feuerbach
with Gary Hincks, 1986
24.7 x 64.0 cm

Path 5.87.1 A Shaded Path (1)
folded print
10.2 x 47.5 cm
5.87.2 5.87.2 A Remembrance of R.L.S.
with Gary Hincks, 1987
lithograph in folder
200 copies
58.0 x 39.5 cm
Annette 5.87.5

Erinnerung an Annette (1), the Ruschhaus Proposal
with Gary Hincks, 1987
concertina print, proposal for Munster
15.1 x 13.6 cm



Annette von Droste-Hulshoff, 1797-1848.
The Ruschhaus Proposal
'A sad tree, whereof such who have lost their love make their mourning garlands.' Willows, Thomas Fuller, DD

WEIDE / am Wasser/ ein Baum / in Tränen

Annette 5.87.6

Erinnerung an Annette (2)
with Gary Hincks, 1987
concertina print, proposal for Munster
15.1 x 13.6 cm



Annette von Droste-Hulshoff, 1797-1848.

Among Annette's best known lines are:
'My songs will live / When I have long disappeared'
- a conviction not uncommon among poets of the 19th century.

Karjpidas 5.87.7 A Proposal for the Garden of Pauline Karpidas
with Andrew Townsend, 1987
folding print
29.6 x 21.0 cm
5.88.2 5.88.2

Proposal for a Sundial to be Placed on Marat's House in Paris
with Eric Marland, 1988
60.5 x 42.0 cm

Repub 5.88.3 Projet pour un Parc Republicain
with Gary Hincks, 1988
lithograph in folder
38.2 x 31.5 cm
6Trees6Trees 5.88.4

Six Tree Column-Bases
with Iain Stewart, 1988
3 lithographs in folder
28.1 x 37.2 cm




LeBas. The ideal comrade; serious and good-looking; accompanied Saint-Just to the Front; a victim of Thermidor. Saint-Just. Young, handsome, autocratic; 'The Angel of The Terror'; member of The Committee of Public Safety; guillotined.


Camille (Desmoulins). Friend of both Danton and Robespierre; precocious, unreliable; the most brilliant of the revolutionary journalists. Lucile. Wife of Camille; young, innocent, beautiful,; uncomplainingly followed him to the scaffold.


Corday (Charlotte). Demure young Girondin from the Normandy countyside; ardent reader of Rousseau; assassinated Marat; guillotined. Marat. One of the most extreme of the revolutionaries; acrimonious, wild-looking; edited the infalmmatory daily journal 'Ami du Peuple'.

Note: A tree-column base is a half-section base and pedestal set by the trunk of the tree. It turns the living tree into - notionally - a classical column.

Dean 5.88.5

A Proposal for the Forest of Dean
with Gary Hincks, 1988
lithograph in folder
32.6 x 26.0 cm


Three oval stone plaques are added to three trees in a quiet woodland. Calling attention to the peaceful surroundings, the plaques are inscribed with the words SILENCE (English, French); SCHWEIGEN (German) and SILENZIO (Italian).
Pillbox 5.88.7 Proposal for the Camouflaging of a Type 22 Pillbox in a Classical Park
with Grahame Jones, 1988
33.5 x 42.0 cm
Arne 5.89.1 A Proposal for Arne
with Gary Hincks, 1988 and 1989
booklet, coloured lithograph
20.0 x 14.6 cm
Private Garden 5.89.2 A Proposal for a Private Garden in Germany for Dr M Hanstein
with Robert Johnston, 1989
20.3 x 31.5 cm
Private Garden
Crate 5.89.3 Crate Furniture for Sansculottes
with Neil McLeish, 1989
lithograph in folder
40.5 x 40.5 cm
Path2 5.89.4 A Shaded Path (2)
folding print within folder
11.0 x 36.0 cm

76 clay bricks, stamped with Virgil's 'shades', and arranged in units of 4, to form an ideal path.

'The shades were the elm, the pine, the lime-tree, and the Platanus, or plane-tree, whose leaf and shade, of all others, was the most in request ...' Sir William, Temple, Gardens in Virgil's Time.

Forest 5.89.5 Into the Forest
with Andrew Townsend, 1989
folding card
10.0 x 12.4 cm
Sacramento 5.90.1 The Sacramento Proposal
with Neil McLeish, 1990
folding print
200 copies
29.7 x 21.0 cm
Combining granite, water and white neon, the proposed sculpture treats the building's entrance hall as an atrium: it brings the 'clouds' (in five languages, including Spanish) down through the distrinctive tower and dome, to be reflected in the pool.
Promontory 5.90.2 A Project for a Promontory
with Kathleen Lindsley and Malcolm Fraser
24 pp booklet with dustjacket
11.0 x 7.7 cm
Finials 5.90.3

Proposal for a Pair of Gate Piers and Finials
with Andrew Townsend, 1990
folding lithograph
42.2 x 14.7 cm


'The 'pineapple' finials have become fragmentation grenades, while the combination of brick and stone carries a suggestion of Virtue and Terror.'
Milestones 5.91.1 Six Milestones
A Proposal for Floriade, The Hague, Holland
with Michael Harvey
20 pp booklet with dustjacket
26.0 x 18.0 cm
Kydippe 5.91.2 Beautiful Kydippe
with Michael Harvey, 1991
lithograph in folder
41.7 x 27.3 cm
'May your bark bear the words BEAUTIFUL KYDIPPE', Callimachus, Fragment 73

The words, which Callimachus (270 BC) describes as being cut into the tree-bark, are transposed to the stone plaque shaped to the trunk of the tree.
Prop_Tree 5.91.3 Proposal for a Tree-Plaque: MD
with Michael Harvey, 1991
lithograph in folder
27.1 x 31.0 cm
'MD', Marguerite Dennelle, was childhood playmate, subsequently mistress, wife, and at last widow of Jean Baptiste Louvet (1760-1797), Girondist Deputy, author of the romantic novel 'Faublas'. An enemy of Robespierre, soon proscribed by the Jacobins, Louvet lived for a time a Rousseauesque existence as a fugitive in the forest of the Jura. Here, "lying on my back under the dark fir-trees, I sigh to think of the family that I shall never see again ... Here, too, calling love to my aid ... I engrave on the tender bark of the beech-tree the initials of my dear ..."
Present Order 5.91.4

For Klaus Werner: Proposal for a Postscript to 'The Present Order'
print in folder
18.2 x 11.0 cm

Present Order


5.92.2 A Project for Portland
with Mark Stewart, 1992
16.4 x 14.9 cm
Tout 5.92.3

A Proposal for Tout Quarry, Portland, Dorset
with Nicholas Sloan, Gary Hincks, 1992
12 pp
20.9 x 14.8 cm

'Gods of the Earth / Gods of the Sea'

Stockwood 5.92.4

A Formal Pool for Stockwood Park, Luton
with Nicholas Sloan, 1992
linocut, letterpress
36.6 x 48.7 cm



"Earth anchoring in the perfect harbours of Aphrodite meets with these in equal proportions with Hephaistos and water and gleaming air"

The inscription around the pool derives from the 'Poem on Nature' by Empedokles, the Presocratic philosopher.

Leasowes 5.92.5 A Proposal for The Leasowes
with Nicholas Sloan, 1992
17.7 x 26.6 cm
Ehrentempel 5.93.1 Two Proposals for the Munich Ehrentempel Sites
with Ian Appleton, 1993
2 drawings with commentary in a folder
42.3 x 29.8 cm
Haus 5.93.2

Proposal for the Haus der Kunst
with Gary Hincks, 1993
37.5 x 152.5 cm

'Verboten. Forbidden'

Kunsthalle 5.93.3 Proposal for a Kunsthalle
23.4 x 18.0 cm
'La patrie n'est pas le sol, elle est la communaute des affections.'
5934 5.93.4 Proposal for an Inscription to be added to the Monopteros in the English Garden, Munich
with Gary Hincks, 1993
20.5 x 44.1 cm

London Garden

5.93.5 A Proposal for a London Garden
with Annika Sandell, 1993
lithograph in folder
34.2 x 29.2 cm
London Garden
The existing garden tapers as if in emulation of Renaissance perspective drawings. The proposed design exploits this by the division into terraces on slightly different levels with steps between. The theme of perspective is finally given expression in the text which is realised in stone as part of the three dividing walls.
Obelisk 5.93.6 A Proposal for an Obelisk
with Annet Stirling, 1993
20.6 x 7.6 cm
Gyle 5.93.7

Seven Bollards: Proposal for a Shopping Centre, The Gyle, Edinburgh
Ian Hamilton Finlay, John Andrew, Pia Simig, Gary Hincks
16 pp booklet
11.6 x 9.2 cm

Krems 5.94.1

A Proposal for a Park, Stadtpark, Krems, Austria
Ian Hamilton Finlay and Pia Maria Simig with Gordon Munro and Candida Ballantyne
photographs by Antonia Reeve, 1994
leaf in folder
12.7 x 16.3 cm



A bronze representation of a wheelbarrow contains two interchangeable additions, fallen leaves for autumn and winter and flowerpots for spring and summer.

'Be good and with me walk / The old devalued park / Where autumn has set in'. Karl Shapiro.

Constellations 5.94.3

2 Constellations for a Column, The Gyle, Edinburgh
booklet with bookmark
10.0 x 7.4 cm

ships / nymphs
nymphs / ships

bark / barque
barque / bark


'Wake, then; ease off the sheets and let your sails fill. We are your fleet, once pines of Ida from her holy crest, and now nymphs of ocean.' Virgil, AENEID, Book X.

Apollo 5.94.4

Proposal for a Temple of Apollo/Saint Just, Little Sparta
Ian Hamilton Finlay and Mark Stewart
16 pp booklet
illustration prepared by Peter Rogan, 1994
10.8 x 10.4 cm

Goldberg 5.94.5

A Proposal for the Garden of Arthur & Carol Goldberg, West Pound Ridge, in the State of New York
with Pia Maria Simig and Nicholas Sloan, 1994
Folding card
7.0 x 15.0 cm

Distant Spot 5.94.6 A Proposal for a Distant Spot
for Bernhard and Marie Starkmann
with Gary Hincks, 1994
folding card
21.8 x 12.2 cm
Distant Spot
Cabane 5.95.1

A Proposal for the Restoration of a
Traditional ”Cabane”
with Andrew Whittle, 1995
10 x 10 cm



'La Cabane a ses raisons que la maison ne connait point'. (Pascal)

A proposal for the restoration of a traditional 'cabane' - stone hut - in a garden in Provence.

Botanic 5.95.2 A Proposal for the Botanic Gardens, University of Durham
with Ron Costley, 1995
23.2 x 12.5 cm
Modern Art 5.96.1 Liberty, Equality, Eternity - an Installation for the new Gallery of Modern Art, Ingram Street, Glasgow
sheet in folder
17.0 x 28.0 cm
Modern Art
The drama of the deeply recessed windows is accentuated by an inscription which plays on a well-known slogan from the French Revolution. The words are set within simplified linear representations of a guillotine blade, both elements (verbal and graphic) being realised as clear glass within frosted glass, allowing a contrasting partial view of the present-day street. Speaking of The Terror, the French socialist historian Jaures wrote: 'The scaffold filled the city with a glow of immortality.' Questions such as that of the survival of the soul after death had ceased to be academic.'
RubbingPost 5.97.1 A Rubbing Post for a Wild Boar
with Pia Maria Simig and Peter Lyle, 1997
leaf in folder
18.4 x 18.0 cm folded
A circular post cast in bronze, with plain and rusticated bands alternating, the latter following three of the four types of rustication illustrated in Sebastiano Serlio's 'Five Books of Architecture'. At the top of the post, in raised Roman letters, are the words 'AGE QUOD AGIS' - 'What you are doing, do thoroughly'. The post is designed for a private garden in Provence.
Cobbled 5.97.2 Lily-Cobbled: A Proposal for a Private Garden
with Pia Maria Simig and Ron Costley, 1997
12.0 x 14.6 cm
Utilising the house-wall adjacent to the pool which is a main feature of the garden, the words LILY-COBBLED, in stainless steel square-sectioned letters, refer to the abundant water-lilies which cover a section of the pool with their floating leaves. The open-ended literary fragment, introduced by the Schlegel brothers in the 18th century, is especially appropriate in garden settings conducive to contemplation.
10.5 x 16.0 cm
Erfurt 5.98.1 A Proposal for the Grounds of the Federal Labour Court in Erfurt
with Pia Maria Simig and Gary Hincks, 1998
leaf in folder
16.2 x 15.7 cm
Hirtenlied 5.98.2 Hirtenlied/Folding the Last Sheep:
A Proposal for the Bundesgartenschau, Magdeburg
folding card
18.5 x 17.5 cm
Achtung 5.99.1 Achtung! Wilde Blumen. A Marker Stone for a Meadow, Schonthal Monastery, Switzerland
with Pia Maria Simig and Gary Hincks, 1999
folding card
12.4 x 11.4 cm folded
A characteristic Swiss meadow is divided into a mown and a wild part. This marker stone is designed for the latter, drawing attention to the variety of wild flowers growing there. But the result is not unambiguously idyllic; the inscription can be understood as a version of the customary cautionary notice, (Keep Off The Grass), or as an acknowledgement of the flowers as an expression of the powerful, perhaps dangerous, forces of Nature.
Zunquiera 5.99.2 A Proposal for the Island of A Xunqueira del Lerez Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain
with Pia Maria Simig and Peter Coates, 1999
10.1 x 14.5 cm
A grove of Eucalyptus is the intended site of three tree-plaques bearing the name Petrarch and the numbers (Roman) of three of his sonnets on the subject of love and solitude. The Eucalyptus are at one end of the an island in the Rio Lerez, at the entrance to the Spanish town of Pontevedra.
Schonthal 5.99.3 A Proposal for the Grounds of the Schönthal Monastery, Switzerland
with Pia Maria Simig and Gary Hincks, 1999
2 leafs in a folder
14.9 x 15.7 cm
Patumbah 5.99.4 Additions to Patumbah Park, Zurich
with Pia Maria Simig and Nicholas Sloan, 1999
folding card
21.0 x 14.8 cm
Sentry Box 5.02.1 A Proposal for the Four Sentry Boxes at Schloss Benrath
with Pia Maria Simig and Nicholas Sloan, 2002
21.0 x 14.7 cm
Sentry Box

NEOCLASSICAL STATUARY. A play on the double-meaning of arms as limbs and as weaponry. Neoclassical statuary is more likely to be undamaged than classical statuary.

NEOCLASSICAL THAUMATURGY. Thaumaturgy: wonder-working; an aspect of the old classical religion. The 'gods' which fly faster than sound are present-day warplanes.

CLASSICAL BIOGRAPHY. A play on Hegel's observation that no man is a hero to his valet.

CLASSICAL WARFARE. The inscription evokes those scenes of melodrama and ruin beloved of old artists. The 'capital' may be a fragment of masonry, or a city or town. 'Column' has a similar possibility of alternative readings.