A departure from his typical style, one can only imagine that this primitive style carving was done just for the fun of it. His assistant, Elizabeth MacLean Smith remembers that, “It was only when most of his children had grown up that he had time to spend carving granite boulders for his own pleasure and satisfaction.” The boulders on the shore of Bartlett’s Harbor on North Haven Island in Maine were plentiful. Here, the North Haven Artists Colony thrived and had the peace and quiet that allowed for creativity.
“Let the material suggest the treatment,” he would say to his students at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts. “Use all the stone; let the stone itself contribute to the design.” The basic principles apply no matter what the medium. He encouraged his students to express their individual style whether traditional or modern, and didn’t disparage the use of unusual materials or shapes or judge the choice of subject matter. He was extremely interested in abstract sculpture although he did little with it, again teaching that the same basic tests for all good sculpture should be applied to that genre as to any other.
And so here is this quirky Head of a Man. What is the style? Does it matter? The shape of the head is that of the stone and his internal artist created a great character in the face he found there. The heavy stone suggested his heavy jaw and neck, full lips, flattened nose and large mustache. It is reminiscent of the primitive Aku Aku heads and has that same Gaugain island appeal. Or is it an ancient warrior with a helmet? It came from his imagination. Fun.
In the Museum School records, there is a photo of Peter Abate, one of Allen’s favorite students with a carved stone head in a similar style. Perhaps this was an assignment in class, an exercise in creativity to make something from an unusual shape using all the stone and letting it suggest the best way for man and nature to cooperate. He said, “There is a basic alliance between sculptor and nature. Sculptors should be sensitive to natural forms, not torture and fight with their materials, and thereby destroy both the integrity of the material and of the concept.”
Carving takes time, patience and concentration. Creativity requires peace of mind and solitude. It was when he was at peace in North Haven away from the stresses of his city life, that he was able to follow his heart. This unique Head of a Man remains there, an ancient gazing out at the little harbor that Frederick Allen loved.