George Russell Agassiz, 1917-1918

Plaster cast of hand, afterward cast in bronze
Possible portrait head in 1918
(no images of either)

George Agassiz was a North Haven summer resident. It was there that Frederick Allen knew him although the Agassiz family also lived nearby in Cambridge as winter residents, George being the respected Professor of Zoology at Harvard University. It was also there in North Haven that Allen took a cast of his hand and may also have cast or sculpted a head.

In 1915 Frank Weston Benson of the Museum School and also of North Haven had created a portrait of Agassiz in drypoint which is in the Library of Congress listed as Portrait of George R. Agassiz, professor of zoology at Harvard University, reading a book. Bela L. Pratt produced a portrait relief of his father, Alexander Emanuel Agassiz in 1911, so three of the four Bartlett’s Harbor Artists Colony members produced portraits of one of the Agassiz men.

The Agassiz family cottage is listed in Summering on the Thoroughfare by Roger G. Reed as having been built in 1906. The record of the sale of the family summer home the generation after George Russell is amusingly recorded in North Haven News in 1988. (North Haven Summers by E.M.Richardson, p. 165) The cottage was destroyed by fire in 1988.

George was active in the North Haven community, acting as Director of the Casino from 1937-1939. He was born 21 Jul 1862 in Nahant, married in 1902 to Mabel Simpkins, and died 5 Feb 1951. His father was Alexander Emmanuel Agassiz, a specialist in marine ichthyology and son of the Agassiz who founded the Museum of Natural History at Harvard. His mother was Anna Russell. He lived on Beacon Hill in the 1940s.

In his diary before May 27, 1918 Allen lists as income, Hand of George Agassiz        $100. He also writes an account of the time in September 1918, “Pratts went home before us. I gave casting lesson to Miss Bowditch and took cast of Mr. Agassiz’s hand. Had it put in bronze. We returned Sept 28 and had a most awful stormy trip. Mother very sick. Agnes and Barbara also sea sick.”

Agnes Allen’s list of work also includes in 1918, “George Agassiz (head)” Did she misremember this or did he do both a hand and a head? No other records are available.

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