Frederick Warren Allen


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Charles Emerson Hovey, a bronze portrait relief of the war hero from Portsmouth, NH affixed to the edge of a fountain base dedicated to him in Prescott Park across from Strawberry Banke. Frederick Warren Allen, Sculptor, 1918.

There is a relationship between the portrait reliefs of Ensign Charles Emerson Hovey (1885-1911) and Etheldreda Downing Hovey Klyce (1880-1917) both by family and by date. William W. Howells, the grandson of the celebrated novelist and editor, William Dean Howells, a good friend of Mark Twain, was married to Muriel Gurdon Seabury who was the daughter of the Portsmouth Rector Henry Emerson Hovey. Etheldreda and Charles were her aunt and uncle. Both reliefs were created in 1917-1918. Etheldreda had died in 1913 and Charles in 1911.

The Howells had bought a summer home in 1902 on the Piscataqua River in Kittery Point, Maine. The property was across the water from the island of New Castle off the coast of Portsmouth and near the Isles of Shoals, both havens for the literati and artists of the Boston Brahmin social network. The Howells were benefactors of Portsmouth. Muriel was very involved with Portsmouth’s historic Strawberry Banke and later with Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts. “Muriel Howells fought her first battle for historic preservation in Portsmouth by relocating a fountain, dedicated to her uncle Charles Emerson Hovey, from a downtown location to here at Prescott Park.” (Strawberry Banke by J.Dennis Robinson, 2007, p. 198 and Portsmouth News, 6 Sep 1986)

Ensign Hovey was a war hero, born in Portsmouth and killed in the Philippines in 1911. He is portrayed proudly by his family in his dress uniform with two accompanying lettered commemorative plaques, all by F.W.Allen, whose signature appears at the bottom right corner of the portrait with the date it was made, “fecit 1918.” The dignified portrayal is on an uplifting fountain dedicated to him at the entrance to busy Prescott Park on the river where there are many tourists and residents to appreciate his sacrifice.

How the family came to hire Frederick Allen is unknown, but according to Muriel’s son Dean, by 1918 he was well known in art circles in Boston, New Castle, and North Haven, ME for creating accurate likenesses in a style like Augustus St. Gaudens and Bela Pratt. For that reason he would have been sought after for his work. Pratt had died in 1917, so the next best choice would have been Allen. One reviewer in a news article (date and publication unclear) says, “In refinement and closeness of characterization it is much in the same class with this artist’s very remarkable portrait in the present guild exhibition.” If this references the relief in the opening show of the Guild of Boston Artists, then the relief is that of Caleb Arnold Slade. (Also note that the reviewer published his name incorrectly. The subject is Charles Emerson Hovey, not Clarence F. Hovey.)

One of two commemorative plaques for the sides of the Hovey Fountain in Prescott Park, Portsmouth, NH, describing the service and death of Ensign Charles Emerson Hovey. His portrait relief is center front. F.W. Allen, Sculptor, 1918.

St. Gaudens was an innovator in the difficult art of the bas relief. It is clear that Allen studied his work carefully and used many of his techniques. With the inspiration from St. Gaudens and Pratt combined with his own outstanding technical skill and innate aesthetic sense, he produced many wonderful portrait reliefs.

The memorial to Ensign Hovey in his Navy dress uniform is dignified as befits a hero. Allen believed it was important in times of war and remembering war casualties, to be uplifting. The setting in the park (moved here in 1980) overlooking the water of the Piscataqua River in Portsmouth and the historic gundalow cargo vessel beyond at the dock on the right highlights the history of the city as well as its hero. The Hovey Fountain with water spurting upward from the fish in the hand of a young man in his prime boosts the spirit.

An image from a newspaper article in the Archives of American Art (perhaps the original clay) shows more of the body in uniform and more width at the shoulders giving the illusion of looking up to him rather than directly at him. The bronze is cut shorter at the bottom and narrower at the shoulders. There were two copies made, so the photo from 1918 may be one of the second bronze or more likely the original in clay.

Lively surface activity characterized St. Gaudens’ work and here you see Allen use of that aesthetic here not only in the groundwork behind the head, but also in the tactile quality of the coat and the details of the hair above his ear. Contrasting with the textural elements is the smoothness of the skin, which lifts his face out of the dark background into the light, gives the relief “color” and makes him shine.

News article about the portrait relief of Ensign Charles Emerson Hovey created in 1918 by F. W. Allen, Sculptor. Note that the name and rank of the officer has been incorrectly published here. (publication name and date unknown)

St. Gaudens said “Remember that your background is your atmosphere, and part of the composition, and that the composition should extend from edge to edge of the frame.” (The Reminiscences of Augustus Saint-Gaudens (Vol.2) by Homer St.Gaudens, 1913) Compositionally, note here the technique of the horizontally tooled striations above the shoulders that extend out to the squared edge of the frame repeated in the vertical striations in the braid on his uniform. The technique suggests the brush strokes of a painting. The painter John La Farge encouraged his friend St. Gaudens to treat a bas-relief like a painting in clay.

Note that the shoulders are a different texture from that of the ground surface layer and extend out beyond the side edges as if there were no boundaries to contain them. Bringing the body out beyond the frame brings the subject out to the viewer and the viewer into the art.

The anchor pins at the collar make a statement about Hovey’s status as well as his character. It is a detail without words that has a psychological impact. Here was a hero to be honored for his naval service to his country and to his seaside City of Portsmouth.

The lettering on the two plaques on either side of the fountain reads, “Ensign Hovey was graduated from the U. S. Naval Academy 1907 and ordered to the Philippines 1910. He was commanding a detachment of men from the U.S.S. ”Pampanga” in pursuit of outlaw Moros in the island of Basilan when his party was ambushed and he himself mortally wounded.” The second reads, “In memory of Charles Emerson Hovey Ensign, United States Navy Born in this city January 10, 1885 Killed in action Philippine Islands September 24, 1911 — Son of Reverend Henry Emerson Hovey and Louise Folsom Hovey”

Portrait relief, 2 copies cast in bronze, dark patina.
Two lettered plaques cast in bronze.
Signed bottom right corner F.W.Allen fecit 1918
Location on the fountain at the entrance to Prescott Park, Portsmouth, NH and in a private collection. One recorded as sold for $100.
Published in the Portsmouth News 6 Sep 1989

Bas-relief portrait, 13.5 in x 11.25 in, Cast in plaster and bronze, Exhibited at the Guild of Boston Artists 1913

Attleboro, Massachusetts was the connecting link between these two artists and their wives. Both couples stayed connected to Attleboro over the years, visiting their parents who continued to live there.

Caleb Arnold Slade had been educated in the public schools of New Bedford, but his parents relocated to Attleboro around 1900 when Slade entered Brown University. He didn’t discover his future profession, however, until after his graduation from Brown when he happened upon the Hudson River art colony and began sketching. He met Irene Wells, an Attleboro resident, and married her in 1906.  It was she who urged him to study the academic style of painting. Within four years of his first art class both the town of Attleboro and the town library purchased Slade’s paintings. The library featured him in a one-man show and purchased a mural from him in 1913.

Allen grew up in Attleboro and went through their public school system, graduating in 1907. He met Agnes just after she moved to town and later married his young bride the day after her graduation as valedictorian in 1913. Allen’s first bronze cast was a bas-relief, which he gave to the High School as a gift at his graduation. He was commissioned to do a lettered plaque for a town cemetery and a war memorial in bas-relief, still at the entrance to Attleboro’s Capron Park today.

Paris was also a link between the two men. Arnold began his formal education in the arts in 1907 in New York and went on to Paris to L’École des Beaux-Arts where he studied anatomy according to the academic tradition. The Slades rented a small apartment on the Left Bank and by 1909 Arnold was enrolled at Académie Julian, a school that accepted women into its classes. His wife was often a model for the students there.* After Frederick’s formal education in Rhode Island and Boston, the Allens traveled to Paris in June of 1913 and rented a small studio apartment, also on the Left Bank. He studied at the Académie Julian where C. Arnold Slade was enrolled as a student and there in Paris modeled the bas-relief of his friend. Arnold spent his summers in Normandy painting the peasants on the coast in the village of Etaples, so they only had two or three weeks together to complete the portrait before the trip. He did so in July and had it cast in bronze for 30 francs. * One of the Etaples paintings was bought by Isabella Stewart Gardner for her palace next to the School of the Museum of Fine Arts where Allen was teaching.(biographical information from “True Visions: The Paintings of C. Arnold Slade [1882-1961]” by Julie Carlson Eldred)

A third link was Maine, a destination of many artists traveling to paint its beautiful rugged coastline and ocean scenes. Later in life, Slade spent time painting in Ogunquit while Allen sculpted from the stones he found along the coast of North Haven Island in Penobscot Bay.

The original plaster cast was last sold by a dealer in 1989 who didn’t keep records. The portrait is still missing. The whereabouts of the bronze is also unknown, but it was exhibited at the opening show of the Guild of Boston Artists in November of 1914. Allen was a founding member of the GBA.

1913 Paris Studio of Frederick Warren Allen, Sculptor. The bas-relief of painter Caleb Arnold Slade is in the foreground. Frederick and Agnes recline in the background below his sketches done in the museums and ateliers of Paris.

Bas-relief in bronze of Caleb Arnold Slade at the Guild of Boston Artists founding show, November 1914, Frederick Warren Allen, Sculptor, hung on the wall to the left of the painting above the fireplace.

In this original photograph taken in 1913 of Allen and his wife in their Paris studio, you can see the clay sculpture of Slade on the easel in the foreground and what is probably a copy or an initial sketch on the wall just behind his head.

At the founding exhibit of the Guild of Boston Artists in 1914 (right), the Slade portrait was exhibited on the wall above the fireplace mantle to the left of the large painting.

Bas-relief (low relief) sculpture is difficult to do well. It involves carving an image in stone or clay, or raising one up from a flat surface with clay, using sometimes only one-eighth inch of depth in the modeling or carving. It is a challenge to show contrast, color, dimensionality, texture and detail in that shallow a depth while presenting a truthful likeness with personality. Sometimes called painting in clay, a bas-relief is almost a two-dimensional piece of art. Brushstroke effects can be created that are more difficult to achieve when carving in stone. Allen had good mentors to follow inheriting the legacy of Bela Pratt and Augustus St. Gaudens, both accomplished in their creation of coins as well as portraits and larger figures in relief.

St. Gaudens was a bas-relief innovator who passed his techniques on to Pratt and Pratt to Allen. Notice Allen’s use of St. Gaudens’ “trademark compositional devices: vertical formats, profile portraits, decorative inscriptions, and individualizing attributes.” * Notice in this portrait the brush and palette, symbols of the painter and the painterly background texture. Consider the contrasts that shape the face as if it were applied color, and the highlights and shadows that show details in an impressionistic way. *(Thayer Tolles from his essay on “American Relief Sculpture” from the Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History)

The portrait relief of Slade is the sixth of over forty in our records accomplished by F.W. Allen in his lifetime. Slade himself was well known for his portraits, paying his parents back for his education with these commissions. Later in his life, in the 1930s, he supported himself by painting portraits of influential political and military figures and their families in Washington, D.C..

Slade had created Sladeville in Truro. He started with an abandoned church, moved to a hillside with sunset views, and made it into a studio and gallery surrounded by rental cottages for artists. Although there was much opportunity for socializing in his life, Slade was a quiet man and preferred the meditative atmosphere of his studio and the companionship of his friends. In Paris he was not a painter of the café life, but kept more to images of the French gardens and coastal subjects, religious figures and Biblical stories, compelling images of the war in France and colorful scenes from his travels. Both men died in 1961, Allen in his retirement home in Rumney, New Hampshire and Slade in his place of repose and creativity on Cape Cod.