Boy with Goatskin, 1914

Bronze fountain figure
Plaster fountain figure
Possible enlarged figure

One of the charming children Allen created for classical fountains, this boy was chosen for the Piping Rock Club on the Gold Coast of Long Island, designed in 1911 by the architect Guy Lowell who had also designed the Evans Wing of the MFA. Allen would do more for him in the coming years. “The most famous of American country clubs” in its time (Country Clubs of America, C. P. Cushing, 1920), the beautiful gambrel-roofed classic with its columned porticos, white clapboards, and neat gardens, was in the best of colonial good taste. It was, however, a club for outdoor sports like riding, tennis and golf, so there may have been limited time spent enjoying the clubhouse itself and its beautiful gardens.

When the sculpture was shown at the first annual spring exhibition of the Guild of Boston Artists in 1915, a reviewer in the Boston Transcript (5/25/15) wrote that the “chubby boy figure … has humor.” Praise from the Boston Morning Herald, May 20, 1915 read, “Three bronzes are by Frederick W. Allen – a half size figure of a little boy holding a water skin under his arm which he presses against his side to expel the water – a motif as good as it is original.”

And another timely comment from the Christian Science Monitor, May 28, 1915 was that “Frederick W. Allen is a refreshing worker in a field where there is just now much insipidity… Mr. Allen has also humor.”

The child holds a distended goatskin from which water spouts, squeezed out by his right arm and hand. There is a look of happy fascination on his face as he watches the effect of his action. The figure is sculpted in the classical putti style embodying the natural and youthful beauty of a plump child, uplifting the spirit and evoking pleasure in the viewer. It fills the requirements of the City Beautiful movement prevalent in the early 1900s and practiced by Lowell, the tenets of the Boston School artists under which Allen was trained, and the classical style of the Piping Rock Club.

The boy stands in contrapposto on a small rough chunk of ground, one foot casually placed in front of the other. This position shifts the hips to one side, creating a pleasing and visually interesting sinuous curve in the spine as the shoulders tip in a direction opposite to the line of the pelvis. The composition is balanced, the weight of the head with it’s mass of curls held off center and tilted to the boy’s right, equaled by the weight of the visual mass of the goatskin held below and under his left arm to which his eyes are directed. His head and torso are turned in the opposite direction of the hips and legs, giving the viewer something new to see at every angle walking around it.

Allen’s personal notes in the process of creating the fountain are interesting. He wrote about being “quite enthusiastic over it” and felt proud of the stir it created. At the SMFA, they wanted to show it in the student exhibition at the Museum. A reporter came and “snapped me at work on fountain and outdoors in work coat.” He recorded that he worked for two days with a model and one day, “Worked till dark and then lay down fell asleep and lost my train.” He had Pratt come to do a criticism of it and Pratt, impressed, promoted the piece.

In the many references to the Fountain in the Allen Diary, it is a point of interest that the sculpture was sent to J.D.Rockefeller and J.P.Morgan on approval, but he notes in April that J.P.Morgan died in Europe. “J.D.R.” was the Rockefeller Allen had done business with regarding Pratt’s Nathan Hale statue. He approached others about purchasing a copy, namely a Mrs. Alford of Brookline and both Dr. Holman and Dr. Holden, men of distinction in his hometown of Attleboro. The fountain was also sent to Mrs. Patten for whom he had done other work, both J.L.Sweet and H.O.Sweet. and a Mr. Crapo of New Bedford. He approached the Boston Park Commissioner about placing it in the Public Gardens.

Casting: His notes show the process of casting first in plaster and then in bronze. The first incident sets a scene, “Sunday, went to Boston to cast fountain. Torsky came and we cast in studio I. Awful mess on the floor to clean up.” He was excited when the final statue arrived. June 5 “When I reached home fountain was here.” Two days in a row “Agnes and her mother came at 9 to see fountain.”  “I put it out on setee and turned hose on underneath at nozel to let them see how it worked.” He was pretty excited!

The word “fountain” becomes intertwined in the diary notes, making it difficult to discern to which fountain he referred. However, for the purpose of writing about this sculpture, “fountain” references within certain dates are presumed to be the Boy Fountain, or Boy with Goatskin. This work would earn him attention and money. He mentions copies of the work, although only one specifically. Bronze editions would have been made from the original plaster. According to the note on the back side of the photo in Agnes’ handwriting, “Given by Dr. Holman of Attleboro.” The one made for Dr. Holman in Attleboro was the one placed at the Piping Rock Club in Long Island in 1914.

Size: Half life size, approx. 2’H
Medium: Plaster and bronze
Exhibited: Guild of Boston Artists First Annual Spring Exhibition, May and June 1915
Literature: American Figurative Sculpture, Greenthal et al, 1986, p. 408
Newspapers: Boston Transcript 5/25/15
Boston Morning Herald, May 20, 1915
Christian Science Monitor, May 28, 1915Allen Diary: Searching under the tag “Boy fountain,” he started on 10/10/12 and worked on it for at least the next four months, probably six, having an undesignated fountain cast in April 1913. The references all point to the Boy Fountain.
Editions: Of the casts made, one was in plaster noted 3 times in Allen’s Diary in April, and perhaps two in bronze, one noted 4/26 and then another 6/9.
He notes in an income list after the date of 9/12/1915, “Enlarging my fountain for Mrs. Bryant $75” (see post on Bryant)
Note: Allen mentions in his Diary that Dr. Holman “bought my fountain boy, or rather, a copy of it.” Indicating that there may have been more than one cast.
Foundries possible: Evans and Torsky
Bronze installed at Piping Rock Club, Locust Valley, Long Island, NY
“Given by Mr. Holman of Attleboro“ (handwritten on back of photo by Agnes Allen)

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *