Frederick Warren Allen


Outdoor Sculpture

Art for use out of doors is found as architectural decoration, as memorial statues and reliefs in public places, and as decorative art in both public and private gardens and landscapes. Some are monumental in size and scale to be viewed from a sidewalk and others of a personal size to be viewed at close range. Materials are used to withstand the elements, but early artists didn’t plan on acid rain. Save Outdoor Sculpture! (SOS!) is an organization that is dedicated to tracking and preserving those vulnerable works of art.

Fountain base with Neptune and Dolphins, original clay sculpture in Italian Renaissance design. (For size, compare to wooden barrels under it.) Frederick Warren Allen, Sculptor, c. 1913

Powerful Neptune, brother of Jupiter and Pluto, god of the sea, had a reputation for having a violent temper. He was often depicted in Renaissance art as a bearded man with long wild hair holding a trident, accompanied by stylized dolphin fish. Those three motifs can be seen here in what is most likely a base for a fountain, a typical placement for this god of water. Although the date of the base is unknown, this design would fit that time period at the beginning of his career, just after his student time at the SMFA. He was sculpting in a more classical “ideal” style, based on mythology and symbolism. He did sculptural work for the architect Guy Lowell who designed in the Italian style and called the design of his own sculpture studio “Italianate.” As a student apprentice to Bela Pratt he helped with formal architectural pieces such as the fountain sculptures for the Crane Estate and decorative sculpture for buildings in Boston such as the Boston Public Library.

Allen records in his diary that he spent many days on a “dolphin fountain” for the wealthy Mrs. Alford of Brookline for her grand home on Heath Hill. Although there are no other dolphin sculptures listed in his oeuvre except at the end of his career, the name may have referred to the dolphin fish at each corner of this fountain base. It may have been topped with an existing sculpture owned by the Alfords or by one of Allen’s other pieces. He had shown her a photo of his “fountain boy” or Boy with a Goatskin which had been placed at the prestigious Piping Rock Club on Long Island, but there is no record that she bought a copy and little significant relationship to this base.

Looking at the design of the Dolphin and Neptune fountain base, it is in an Italian Renaissance style in the architectural moldings, the subject matter, and the design elements. The shape is a four-sided pedestal with vertically cut corners in a stepped design tapering from the wide footed base to the narrower platform at the top for the sculpture. The smooth surface of the architectural planes and curved molding contrasts with the shaded combed background texture in the panels of the featured portions.

Scrolls, swags, leaves and flowers were common decorations in the Roman style and the molding consisted of simple lines and curves when compared to the Greek. Here the stylized trident in floral bud form on a combed ground in the top section and the “diving dolphins” motif can be seen in these embossed book bindings from 1509.

A swag of flowers and leaves hangs beneath Neptune’s beard, connecting the dolphins descending on the corners in a very Italian vertical style with uplifted tails. There is good contrast in the light and dark details of the smooth and textured parts of the composition and the features of the faces of the god and his dolphins. The hair of his beard and head wrap around the sides of the base and over the tails of the fish, uniting the composition in repeated curving lines.

As for Neptune himself, what a dynamic, gritty face Allen has created! It shows his wit in making him look like a theatrical and very temperamental wild god!

Medallion bas relief for Harvard Advocate building by Frederick Warren Allen, cast in plaster in 1929

“Pegasus, the medallion which has been modeled for the new Harvard Advocate building by Frederick W. Allen, head of the department of sculpture at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts. The winged horse of ancient mythology has been the symbol of the collegiate society ever since its foundation in 1886.”

The Harvard Advocate is the undergraduate literary monthly at Harvard and, according to its own statement, “the oldest continuously published collegiate literary magazine in the country.” <> “A quarterly magazine, its mission is to publish the best art, fiction, poetry, and prose that the Harvard undergraduate community offers.”

Note that FWA’s cousin, Frederick Lewis Allen, graduated from Harvard in 1912 and was the editor of the Advocate during his time there. A social historian, he published three books about life in America in the early 1900’s.

The first copy had been painted, the background a dark solid aqua. The second copy appears to have been made from the first, judging by the replication of some damage on the edges.

The second cast was colored subtly with pigments.

Frederick Warren Allen was well known by 1929 for the excellence of his bas-relief work. He had done other work for Harvard very early in his career and had cast the hand of Professor Agassiz. Later he was given the honor of being chosen to take the death masque and to sculpt the marble bust of Dean LeBaron Russell Briggs and later to make a copy in bronze for Radcliffe .

The artist Kenyon Cox wrote that, “Low-relief does not deal with actual form, but with the appearance of form.[…] [It] is a kind of drawing by means of light and shade, the difference between it and any other kind of drawing being that the lights and shadows are produced not by white paper and crayon strokes, but by the falling of the light upon the elevations and depressions of the surface of the relief.” [Old Masters and New: Essays in Art Criticism (New York: Fox, Duffield, 1905) pp272-274]

Allen’s Pegasus Medallion is a good example of bas-relief technique, showing how much dimension can be created with such shallow depth of carving. In this piece he added color, accenting the sculptural details with pigments: aqua in the circular concentric grooves of the background representing the sky, dark olive on the horse’s mane and hooves and shading the incised Greek lettering that rings the border. The color gives the medallion added interest by walking the line between painting and sculpture.

Polychromy, or applying color to sculpture, architecture or pottery is a practice that has existed off and on from the time of the ancient Greeks. Glazes, pigments and combinations incorporating wax and other materials such as wood, jewels and metals, has met with mixed reactions and much discussion from critics. It offends the purist who wants to keep the two media (painting and sculpture) separate and wants to keep sculpture as a fine art rather than a decorative art. At the turn of the century, American sculptors were beginning to experiment again with color, Herbert Adams chief among them along with his friend Daniel Chester French. Augustus St. Gaudens also played with it, encouraged by the painter LeFarge.  (Perspectives on American Sculpture before 1925, Essay on Polychrome Portraits, Thayer Tolles, pp 64-81, for The Metropolitan Museum of Art Symposia, 2003)

Allen used color in three of his reliefs, this medallion of Pegasus for The Harvard Advocate building, the lunette for the St. Frances Chapel doorway in Marlborough, NH, and the Benson Medallion owned by the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. All use natural pigments that sink into the plaster surface rather than glazes that sit on the surface, thus producing a more subtle coloration. The relief is accentuated in a way that renders it more realistic and painterly, a preference of The Boston School teachings.

The composition of the Pegasus Medallion is refined. The circular format is accentuated by the concentric grooves of the background. The figure is set off by the background texture and aqua color, representing the sky in which this powerful horse flies. The circle is bordered by a thick flat frame on which the Greek letters are carved. The simple border holds the whole together solidly. The mass of the wings above balances the open space of the sky below. The powerful upper body with the chin tucked and ears pointing up and out bring the weight forward to balance the backward sweep of the wings. Movement is created with the churning legs alternately reaching and tucking tightly into the body. You can almost see the head leading the forward motion as the horse reaches out and pulls in its chin to aid his propulsion through the sky. The extended front and hind legs touch the frame and create diagonal lines from the hind hoof through the body to the ears and from the left foreleg through the muscular shoulder up into the bone of the left wing. Another line is formed from the bent right front leg across the body and through the tail. Details in the carving of the feathers of the wing, the clipped mane and the beautiful face, contrast with the smooth surfaces of the body mass and back wing. Color is provided both by the textures of the masterful carving and the pigmentation of the details and background. Depth is created both by the lights and shadows of the modeling and the trompe l’oeil effect of the forward wing that spills over the frame, creating a 3-D impression. In spite of the fact that the large medallion is 25 inches in diameter, the relief is carved ¼” deep in places and down to 1/8” with additional depth provided by subtle gray shading. Allen shows his mastery of technique as well as artistry in this magnificent medallion.

It is either bronze or discolored by the smoke
Size: 25 inches in diameter, 1 inch thick, carving depth 1/8” to ¼”
Made for Harvard Advocate Building, Cambridge, MA
A copy hung above the fireplace in Allen’s Tavern Road Studio for years. It is either bronze or discolored by the smoke.
Provenance: Currently two original broken copies owned by Christina Abbott who has had them for decades and doesn’t remember where she acquired them.
Purchase information from Harvard Advocate in their archives.
Two original copies, both broken. A posthumous copy was cast in October 2012 at New England Sculpture Service in Chelsea from the second copy which NESS restored enough to make a flexible mold suitable for casting the third copy in plaster.
Published information: News clipping from Boston Herald 6/23/29

BPL War Memorial, F.W.Allen, Sculptor

Boston Public Library War Memorial, F.W.Allen, Sculptor, 1924, North wall of the central courtyard

“It was a clear Sunday morning with a hint of winter in the air. In the courtyard, the Library choristers who had arried early, and without hats, shivered a little. The draped flag between the windows attracted many of the curious. At eleven, library officials, committee members, and guests entered the courtyard, which by then was crowded with expectant standees.” (Library Life, Dec. 15, 1924)

The service on Armistice Day, November 11, 1924 commemorated nineteen employees of the library who served in the war between 1917 and 1918. The ceremony was conducted with solemnity beginning with a “grave and beautiful invocation” and ending with the “singing of the National Anthem and the slow heart-wringing notes of taps” by a bugler. At the time of the unveiling, “the flag fell away from the simple and exquisite bronze tablet, showing a drawn sword wreathed in laurel.” The father of one of the dead placed a “magnificent evergreen wreath” on a stand below the tablet.

A “splendid” military Major General gave a “matter of fact description of a massed attack” which pointed to the futility, the horrors and glory of war. A judge emphasized “the necessity of personal service in everyday life as well as in wartime.” An orator recited “In Flanders Field” dramatically. After the proceedings, luncheon was served to the veterans and guests and all shared in the effort it had taken to bring this event to fruition, in their memories of the three who were lost and in gratitude for the sixteen lives of those still with them. The event was covered by five newspapers.

The view from the North Wall of the Boston Public Library courtyard.

This handsome and modest bronze tablet (20″ x 30″) “with design and lettering in relief, … is the work of a prominent Boston sculptor, Frederick W. Allen,” announced the Boston Globe on November 10th. You will find it outdoors on the North Wall of the beautiful courtyard of the Boston Public Library overlooking the garden “where the fountain plays and people come to read during their noon hours.” (Boston Evening Globe Nov.11, 1924)

The tablet reads, “In honor of the employees of the Public Library of the City of Boston who served in the World War 1917 – 1918. Erected by their fellow workers.” It will “stand for those who strolled in the court as a silent witness of an enduring bond, a memorial of the conflict waged for liberty and righteousness.” (Transcript Nov. 11, 1924)

As a side note, Boston Public Library stands in Copley Square. The entrance from the square is flanked by the magnificent sculptures of two seated women titled Art and Science by Bela L. Pratt, the instructor, mentor and friend of F.W.Allen. Inside the Library are two other sculptures of note, Bacchante and Infant Faun by MacMonnies in the courtyard fountain and the pair of Lions on the entry stairway by St.Gaudens brother Louis. Across the square is Trinity Church. Inside the entrance from the square to the right of the entrance to the sanctuary is another very large lettered tablet by Allen. To the left on the side of the church is the heroic size statue of Phillips Brooks by Augustus St. Gaudens, Pratt’s instructor and mentor. Allen was studio assistant to Pratt and Pratt to St.Gaudens. The legacy is there in the outdoor sculpture in Boston’s Copley Square.

Charles L. Eustis, Bronze, 1922

May 1, 2011

Charles Lyman Eustis must have been one of those legendary Maine characters, fiercely independent and self sufficient, living off the land, working hard, fishing and hunting for his dinner and working from dawn to dusk. At the young age of 20 he had enough of a pioneering spirit to move up from Lewiston to the [...]

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A Mermaid for Frank Benson, after 1933

March 6, 2011

From the waters of Bartlett’s Harbor on North Haven Island in Maine sprang a beautiful mermaid who wanted to be immortalized in stone and live on land. Frederick Warren Allen caught her and granted her wish, placing her in the lovely garden of his friend the painter, Frank W. Benson, where she could still see [...]

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Head of a Woman, pink granite, abt 1959

February 26, 2011

“Got a few minutes? Let’s go look for rocks,” Lewis Haskell, the venerable North Haven Island native and historian remembers Fred Allen saying. They would walk along the shore and he would point to a stone and have Lewis look at it to see if he could see anything in it. Head of a Woman [...]

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Attleboro War Memorial, Capron Park, 1912

February 19, 2011

Frederick Warren Allen’s first commission for work! A bronze plaque to be placed in Capron Park in his hometown of Attleboro, Massachusetts. Won in a competition with the prestigious silver companies Gorham Co. and Reed and Barton Co. while he was still a student, the news of his victory was very exciting to the young [...]

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Keith Field Eagles, Brockton, MA, 1924

February 19, 2011

The entry gate to the Eldon Keith Field in Brockton, MA is guarded by a pair of fierce eagles poised for attack atop their watchtowers. Open beaks warn intruders to beware while their wings are ready to spread in flight. They perch on orbs visible high against the sky. Given by George Keith, Eldon’s father, [...]

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St. Francis Birdbath Garden Statue, Marlborough, NH, abt 1930

February 13, 2011

Behind and beside the tiny St. Francis Chapel on the Kershaw Estate called Merrywood in Marlborough, NH there is a grove of mountain laurel under a canopy of trees. The lovely waterfront scene is the setting for a natural memorial garden with St. Francis guarding three gravestones, two of which are for Francis Stewart Kershaw [...]

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Chapel of St. Francis and the Wolf of Gubbio, Marlborough, NH, 1926

February 13, 2011

The entry door to the St.Francis Chapel at the Kershaw Estate in Marlborough, New Hampshire takes you into a tiny sanctuary, still active for summer Episcopal services. Guests at the frequent weddings here approach the chapel under a bell attached to a stone arch onto a low-walled stone terrace overlooking Stone Pond. It has been [...]

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Crucifix, St. Francis Chapel, Marlborough, NH, 1926

February 13, 2011

Allen’s eldest daughter, Barbara, and her younger brother, Frederick, both have a childhood memory of their family making a trip to see a life sized crucifix that their father, Frederick W. Allen had made for the Kershaw Estate’s St. Francis Chapel in Marlborough, New Hampshire. Barbara remembers being very proud that her father had done [...]

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World War Memorial, Dedham, MA, 1932

January 10, 2011

“Peace,” reads the inscription, the idealistic goal of war. The committee concluded, “The monument is unique and individual in design. It is impressive and will serve to make us better Americans, better men, better women.” It will be a constant reminder that lives were lost “to the end that liberty may be enjoyed by all [...]

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George Washington Monument, Fall River, MA, 1942

December 27, 2010

The Catholic children of the diocese in Fall River collected their pennies to pay for the erection of what was heralded as being one of the most beautiful George Washington monuments and “of such artistic merit and patriotic intent as to attract nation-wide interest,” reported the local paper on October  8, 1942. The monument was [...]

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Church of the Advent, Boston, MA, 1931

December 25, 2010

As a memorial to the men of the Church of the Advent who died in World War I, a stone sculpture was ordered to be placed over the West Portal of the Episcopal church on Beacon Hill in Boston, MA. The project was planned by Cram and Ferguson, architects. A gift of Charles H. Fiske, [...]

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MFA Evans Wing Granite Relief “Painting” 1914

December 25, 2010

In collaboration with Guy Lowell, Architect for Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, Frederick Warren Allen was chosen by his Museum School teacher and mentor, Bela Pratt, who had won the commission, to sculpt one of three granite reliefs for the Fenway Facade of the new Evans Wing upon his return from studying in Paris in [...]

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New York County Supreme Courthouse, Manhattan, Acroteria Statues, abt 1924

December 18, 2010

The grand edifice housing the New York County Supreme Court in Manhattan was designed by Guy Lowell, Architect. He chose Frederick Warren Allen to create the sculptural elements to adorn the entrance to the building. Above the triangular pediment stand three acroteria, statues in-the-round on pedestals. Each is at least thirteen feet high. The central figure at the [...]

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New York County Courthouse Pediment, New York Supreme Court, abt 1924

December 15, 2010

Having won the confidence of Guy Lowell through collaboration on the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and several personal projects for the famous architect, Frederick Warren Allen won the competition to carry out the major project of designing a pediment and acroteria for Lowell’s important courthouse to be built in New York City on [...]

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