Frederick Warren Allen


Guild of Boston Artists

The Guild of Boston Artists was founded in 1914 in response to the Armory Show of modern art and continues into the present day at it’s original location on Newbury Street. Created as a non-profit organization to promote living artists by whom it was owned and operated, the Guild only accepted artists who represented the best of the traditional arts “while adhering to the highest standards of quality and presentation.” Frederick Warren Allen was a founding member.

Gladiator Victor, original photo for St. Botolph Club exhibit April 1916. Frederick Warren Allen, Sculptor, 1916

“Gladiatorial combat was a display of nerve and skill. The gladiator, worthless in terms of civic status, was paradoxically capable of heroism.” Harvard Professor Kathleen Coleman
The slaying of gladiators was regarded as a normal form of entertainment in ancient Rome. They were slaves with masters who fed and trained them well and attended to them medically. There were among them prisoners, debtors, prostitutes and criminals condemned to death, but also free men who volunteered to take the oath “to be burned, to be bound, to be beaten and to be killed by the sword.” There were those who were skillful enough to live to retire as free men, but most died before the age of thirty. Some men became famous and had an extensive following, as do athletes, attaining the status of hero in their culture’s eyes. The victor’s wreath of laurel leaves was the special distinction of an exceptional gladiator.

Allen here depicts one of those gladiators, a handsome, virile, smart, strong fighter who has won the victor’s crown! He wears a garment tied at one shoulder and holds his head confidently on a muscular neck so developed that it is almost as broad as his skull. The square jaw and high cheekbones form strong structural angles at the sides while a cleft chin, shapely lips and high-bridged nose give detail to the line marking the center of the face. The stress and determination of the young man’s performance shows in the furrowed and scarred brow, but the eyes are quiet with an inner strength.

The head is smaller than life size facing forward and erect on the spine. The crown of the skull is slightly narrower in depth and width than the bones of the jaw and the neck is wide when seen from both side and front views. The ears lay flat against the sides of the head and the profile shows a clear diagonal line from the top of the forehead to the tip of the masculine nose. The prominent frontal eminences and superior temporal lines of the forehead’s skull bone clearly illustrate the sculptor’s knowledge of anatomy. The laurel leaves of the victor’s crown protrude forward and upward like wings between which the hair is combed forward to the brow. A suggestion of the leaves continue around the sides of the head ending in a flat knot tied at the occiput. The left shoulder is cut at the neck whereas the right shoulder is prominent, like another wing shape, with some detail to the knot of fabric. The strength of the center column of the portrait keeps the off-center shoulder in balance while the asymmetry adds interest and flair.

Gladiator Victor plaster cast, 1916 by F.W.Allen, Sculptor. Side view shows his strength.

Very classical in style like the statues of antiquity, the Gladiator Victor is a fine example of the Beaux Arts training Allen received from Pratt and his time in the Paris Academies and museums.
Crown Symbol : A victor that has proved his preeminence by the performance of a great feat, and in doing so, won strong public recognition, is worthy of the crown. The crown sits upon the head, at the highest point of the body, and this is significant; it is a clearly visible statement of superiority that separates the victor from the multitude. This separation, subsequently, creates an expectation that the victor is worthy of esteem; and this, in turn, endows him with the obligations and demands of leadership.

Review for the Guild of Boston Artists by R. W. Coburn, May 1917
“The joy of jowls, of course hair, of a thick muscular neck, a low brow and an uncontrollable instinct to draw upon inherited reservoirs of rage and pugnacity is surely the motive underlying Mr. Allen’s ‘Gladiator Victor.’ This is the berserker type that makes war possible centuries after its logical excuse has gone. This is the breed whose unalterable instincts civilization must ultimately learn either to transmute into useful operations or to eliminate through eugenics. This is an Aryan counterpart of our Apache scout, Sergt. Chicken, who back from the slaughter of Villa’s bandits delivers with dancing eye his laconic report: ‘Him damn fine fight.’

Imaginative study, “ideal” work
Modeled in clay, cast in plaster and bronze
Posthumous copy in bronze, brown patina.

Clay original, plaster and bronze casts, posthumous bronze cast from plaster, original photo had “stem” under neck, plaster cast had no stem, bronze posthumous copy from plaster cast has wooden “stem” added to secure it to new trapezoidal base. Rectangular dark base in original photo presumed to be marble; plaster cast, beige patina darkened with age and handling, dark walnut base of trapezoid shape.

Signature, Inscriptions and Date: Plaster cast unsigned and undated, VICTOR at the base in raised block letters under the neck and GLADIATOR to the left of it in the curve of the shoulder in the same size and style lettering. On the cut bare plaster underside of the base is written in pencil by Merrilyn Delano Marsh “FREDERICK W. ALLEN MY TEACHER” Date established by published records.

Size: 10” H without base or “stem,” 6 7/8” W, 5 ½” D
Provenance and current location: Location of bronze and original cast unknown. Second shorter cast was owned by Elizabeth MacLean Smith who gave it to Merrilyn Delano Marsh who gave it to Christina Abbott 6/15/15.
Exhibited: St. Botolph Club April 10-21, 1916
Exhibited at Guild of Boston Artists May 1917
Literature: Description in newspaper clipping from Boston Evening Transcript, Friday, April 7, 1916 regarding the St.Botolph exhibit., “’Gladiator Victor’ crowned with a wreath for his exploits in the arena.”
Newspaper review by F.W.Coburn, May 1917
Paper by Elizabeth MacLean Smith “Gladiator Victor, Nydia and Primeval Prayer, all in bronze, are examples of his earlier work.”

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.

Crippled Frog Bookends, Bronze on marble base, Frederick Warren Allen, Sculptor, 1914

When Frederick Allen was in Paris in 1914, he studied with Paul Wayland Bartlett at the Academie Colarossi. Bartlett was well known for his realistic Beaux Arts style animal sculptures which he cast himself in bronze using the lost-wax process and colored with experimental patinas of his own creation. He learned to draw and sculpt animals at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts under the tutelage of the French animalier Emmanuel Fremiet at the Jardin des Plantes and modeled animals for use in sculptures all over Paris. Bartlett was clearly influenced by the popular ceramics of Bernard Palissy from the 1500s who crafted platters and bowls covered with realistic creatures cast from life, including frogs, which he glazed in bright colors that imitated nature. His collection of small decorative bronzes were popular and praised at the Salon of 1895.

The Boston School of Artists were all trained in the academic traditions of the Paris schools. When the war started in 1914, when Allen was there, Europe changed. This event also changed the attitude that to study in Paris was a “necessity” for an artist’s reputation, and American artists came into their own. Allen studied first at the Academie Julian under Paul Landowski who sculpted the famous Christ the Redeemer that overlooks Rio de Janeiro. When Julian closed, Allen entered the Academie Colarossi and learned from Paul Bartlett. He spent his time sketching in the museums and galleries, taking in the rich culture of art in Paris. What he learned inspired him. He returned to Boston in 1914, began his career teaching with other Boston School artists at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts and, as a founding member of the Guild of Boston Artists, began to exhibit his work. These frog characters in the Paris Beaux-Arts style were exhibited at the Guild of Boston Artists, at Doll and Richards Gallery and at the St. Botolph Club.

Crippled Frog, Detail of patina and inscription, Bronze, Frederick Warren Allen, Sculptor, 1914

With all that Allen gained in studying the Paris sculptors, he must have been especially influenced by his own teachers there. He mastered the lost wax process of casting and chose interesting patinas to color his bronzes, techniques for which Bartlett was well known. Notice on the frogs pictured here, the variation in color and texture from the shine and transparency of the golden eyes to the antique matte yellowed appearance of the metal around the amphibian’s legs, belly and feet, almost like dried mud in which you might have found him. The green, reddish brown and black mottled colors have depth like a good ceramic glaze and are realistically frog-like. Rather than being strictly natural like a life cast, Allen took artistic license and played with the light in an impressionistic way, modeling the animal with a textured surface, showing the clay and leaving some details to the imagination.

In his classes at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, he taught animal sculpture, leading some of his students to play with that subject matter extensively. In his own work, he chose to depict animals. Find among his pieces two elephants, two flying horses, two eagles, three frogs, small birds, a wolf, a pony, a turtle, a fish, a duck and a dolphin. As studio assistant to Bela Pratt, he sculpted an eagle, a seagull, a squirrel and three full-size horses. In his life, he enjoyed wildlife, spending time with his children showing them creatures in his hands, in the woods and in the sea. He kept a pet baby porcupine for a while who did a little ritual dance they would marvel at every morning and made a cage and exercise wheel for some field mice, demonstrated the strength of a snapping turtle’s jaws and showed them the little ping-pong ball shaped eggs, taught them how to care for and feed a baby bird, had them touch a smooth green grass snake and let it slide through their hands. And of course there were house pets, three cats a dog and a parrot. He loved being in nature, appreciated it, and showed that appreciation in his sculptures.

Primeval Prayer abt 1914

January 12, 2011

Primeval Prayer, an F.W.Allen Statuette “is attracting universal attention at the exhibit by the Guild of Boston Artists,” announces the Boston Journal, May 26, 1915. One of four bronzes by Allen shown in nine American cities, Prayer received words of praise from most reviewers, conflicted by the incoming Modern Art shown in the Armory Show [...]

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Nydia, 1913

January 12, 2011

Lovely Agnes, the wife of the sculptor, was the muse for this luscious portrait of Nydia, the blind heroine of Pompeii. In his diary, Frederick Warren Allen noted that this was the first of his ideal work exhibited and that the reviews had “brought many good words.” The exhibit he spoke about was the opening [...]

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Torso, 1914

January 9, 2011

Alternately called Torso of a Dancing Girl this beautiful little figure was also carved twice in marble. Three bronze casts were made using the lost wax process and finished with a green patina. Presently one marble original is in the Concord Art Association, and one in the Farnsworth Museum in Rockland, bronze is in [...]

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Frank Weston Benson, 1923

January 9, 2011

Frank Weston Benson (1862 – 1951) This amazing bas relief of Allen’s colleague Frank W. Benson is only 1.9 cm. That’s 3/4 of an inch! The coin-sized medallion was a gift of the Barbarossa family to the Museum of Fine Arts. F.W.Allen’s skill in creating such definition in such low relief and in such a small [...]

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