Henry Ware Clark (1893-1918) was a war hero, a Second Lieutenant in the First Division of the Sixteenth Infantry killed in action by shrapnel in Cantigny, France on May 28, 1918. An eye-witness recounts, “He was commanding a platoon of machine guns, and putting on indirect fire during the attack, and he had not been firing more than three minutes when a Boche 155 shell exploded near him. The shrapnel shattered his knee, and one piece went through his head just above the eye. He was killed instantly, and there was a smile on his face when we carried him out.
A descendant of early Massachusetts Colonial settlers, he was born in Chicago to parents Caroline and Charles Clarke, November 19, 1893, grew up in Newton and graduated from Harvard College. He worked with his father in Hudson, MA at the Universal Boring Machine Co. One of his college friends wrote of him, “His quiet, frank, and pleasant manner with his quaint humor made him a charming friend and companion. These traits that made him a favorite among his circle of college friends, together with a strong sense of duty, high ideals, and steadfast courage, made him a leader who won the respect and affection of the men and officers of his command.”
After his death, a close Army comrade wrote to Henry’s sister, “Never have I met with a more even, frank, and generous disposition than your brother’s. He never became ruffled or impatient, and was at all times kind and considerate of others. Officers and men loved and respected him alike. Perhaps I knew him as well if not better than anyone in the Company, and so I know how very fortunate I was to have been his friend.”
All of the information above comes from “Memoirs of the Harvard dead in the war against Germany,“ the full text of which may be found on the internet at http://www.archive.org/stream/memoirsofharvard03howe/memoirsofharvard03howe_djvu.txt
Allen was connected to Harvard over the years. He made wax models for their medical lab while still a student from 1909-1911, sculpted a portrait bust of Bay Myers who rowed crew in 1912 (son of Lectern Von L Meyer of the U.S. Navy) and was chosen to do the death masque and marble portrait of the beloved Dean Russell LeBaron Briggs in 1936, a bronze copy of which is at Radcliffe College.
This portrait of Henry Ware Clark is a particularly fine example of Allen’s mastery of his craft and the difficult technique of modeling low-relief or bas-relief sculpture. Dubbed as “painting in clay” by some, this two-dimensional art form must create likeness, texture and dimension in a relief that is sometimes only 1/8” deep. Sometimes carved into a block of clay or stone and sometimes built up on a flat ground in clay, the sculptor uses the play of light on the surface to create his effects.
Like his predecessor Saint-Gaudens, the American sculptor famous for his innovative relief work, Allen here uses an inscription and symbols related to the character. The crossed guns of the 16th Infantry and the olive branches indicate his heroic status as a warrior for peace. A textured background and a rectangular frame with a thicker base was another St.Gaudens style point used by Allen.
The Boston School of Artists by whom Allen was trained, espoused the classical academic training of the Beaux-Arts school style and the use of the bronze cast. Bronze allowed fine details to be reproduced and gave the artists more freedom to sculpt lively textures and realistic natural details. So, notice the striated background and the intricate shimmering texture of the officer’s dress coat contrasting with the smooth epaulettes at the shoulders and the flat strap across his chest. Note the details of the pins on his collar and the stitching down the front with the smooth round buttons. The olive branches are very realistic in their depth and the variation in the leaf form, providing dimension as they come out across the frame into the space of the viewer, seemingly placed there later on top of the portrait in tribute to the fallen hero.
His large light eyes with the straight brow are outstanding and the shapely lips youthful and full. The cleft chin gives him strength of character with the high cheekbones and sturdy nose. His skin looks natural rather than air-brushed in the American art style . The shadows are deep along the right side of the face, chin and nose and under the brim of the helmet, slightly and imperfectly tilted to one side, giving the whole realism with great depth and color.
Compositionally the portrait is balanced with the curve of the helmet’s brim mirroring the opposing curve of the olive branches. A solid oval formed by the contiguous line of the branches and epaulettes provides the sense of a secure base above which the nose is centered between the side borders of the simply-edged frame. The helmet echoes the larger, similar shape of the shoulders. Asymmetry is created with the angled front placket, the diagonal strap, the irregular fold on the right shoulder fabric, the tilt of the helmet’s brim and the leaf variations. The border is doubled at the top edge and decorated by corner tacks. The base is wide in comparison to provide stability and to accommodate the overhanging branches of olive leaves. The plaque is mounted on an undecorated mitered-corner dark wooden frame of equal width all around.
Allen’s portrait of this young man is poignant in its simple beauty and the liveliness and dignity of the man now portrayed “In Memory.”