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.
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.