On a summer day on North Haven Island in Maine, Frederick Warren Allen was rowing the family dinghy in Bartlett’s Harbor in front of their cottage with his son, also named Frederick. As the twosome peered over the side of the boat into the water, father Allen spotted a large granite boulder. “There is an elephant,” he told his son. “Let’s get it into the boat.” (Elizabeth Smith) That’s one of two stories remembered about this beloved Elephant. The other is that after having seen it beneath the water, he kept rowing over it until he could no longer resist it and had it pulled up in the way the islanders would move the heavy weight for a boat mooring. As his granddaughter remembers it, he said, “It was already an elephant. I just finished it off.” Whatever the true story, it was a granite boulder that had been shaped by the waves. The artist saw an elephant in the shape and carved the details of the magnificent graceful animal.
It was carvings made directly from stone found along the North Haven shoreline where some of the Boston School of Artists congregated that became the works closest to Allen’s heart. He chose granite stones in sizes from eight-inch pebbles to boulders and carved directly, working from his imagination, developing and refining the work, sometimes over a period of years.
In the case of the Elephant, the shape was already there, “the height of the shoulders, the drop in the hindquarters, and the strong leg supports with a depression between. Even the skull and trunk were suggested.” (Elizabeth Smith) He gave detail to the head and trunk, polished the front legs and tusk, created textural contrast to indicate space or shadow and left the rest of the stone as nature had shaped it. There is movement in the form and a softness and vulnerability in the eye, making it come to life. “Endearing” and “powerful” are words used by Greenthal in American Figurative Sculpture. You instinctively stroke the head and smooth back as it invites you to come close and touch it.
Three resin copies were made abt 1994 by Skylight Studios (Robert Shure) and were sold to the family for the cost of casting and finishing. Two copies are in family collections and one was given as a gift to a private collector.