Mother and Child, 1915-1916

Mother and Child, 1915-1916
Mother and Child, 1915-1916

The emotion of this “striking piece” (Boston Evening Transcript 4/7/16) may well have been created by the joy of the Allen’s first child, the beautiful little Barbara. Joy pulses through the body of this young mother, whose belly shows the swell of her recent pregnancy. She kneels and lifts the child upward as if in presentation, balancing it with one strong arm and stabilizing the little body with her kiss. The opposite arm is extended down and behind her in opposition creating a strong diagonal line from her hand touching the cupped base through the baby’s face. The centerline of the torso is erect, strong and straight, extending from the foot through the pillar of the neck to the forehead. The hair is swept back in a feminine style and appears to swirl above the baby’s head, the only texture and detail in the otherwise simple lines and planes of the mother’s body. The hands and feet are sketchy as is the body of the baby. What stands out as focal points are the figure of the mother and the composition of the heads. The baby is clearly the star. The structure of the mother’s face is clear but without detail, blending into the face of the baby; a very modern composition.

In portrait classes, Allen taught that “Since sculpture is a structural art, it is also ‘far more satisfactory when two volumes do not try to occupy the same space.’ A child’s head looks highly peculiar when half of it is sunk in the shoulder of the mother – with regard for the cross section of either mass.” (Smith) Barbara herself commented about the composition and balance of the heads in a conversation with her daughter (9/26/10). “The hair balances the child’s face – heavy side. The baby’s face is clear and the mother’s face is vague.”

The piece was shown at the St.Botolph Club on the modeling stand. The hand of the sculptor can be seen everywhere from the tooling marks in the hair and feet to the press of the thumbs against the clay to shape it and the spots of clay applied to her unfinished hands and buttocks. The work might seem lacking in detail in the view of some, but the reviewer from the Transcript stated that “Mother and Child” is one of the best things, quite original in composition, and modern in sentiment and modeling.”

Boston Evening Transcript review by Marian P Waitt, April 7, 1916.
Headline: “Striking Piece in the St. Botolph Exhibition”
Caption: “Mother and Child” One of the Recent Works of F. W. Allen, Now Well Known to the Boston Circle of Art Lovers
Text reads: “’Mother and Child’ is one of the best things, quite original in composition, and modern in sentiment and modeling. …Too much commendation cannot be given the sculpture part of the exhibition that is contributed by F.W.Allen .… A remarkable piece is ‘Mother and Child’….”

Clay shown, full size work on modeling stand
Exhibition: St. Botolph Club, April 1916 in a two-man show with Painter F.C.Frieseke

Excerpt of Mother and Child faces, 1915-1916

Excerpt of Mother and Child faces, 1915-1916
Excerpt of Mother and Child faces, 1915-1916

The excerpt from the full Mother and Child sculpture was done separately. The faces by themselves are of slightly different composition and mounted on a wooden block pedestal, outwardly curved at the base. The mother’s hair hangs over the edge of the stand and is more simply modeled with less fullness and less movement than seen in the full work. Here the baby’s face is much more dramatically presented and the bone structure of the mother’s face is clearer. The lobe of the ear, the eyelid and the bridge of the nose are added details. Whereas more traditional mother and child pieces have the child cradled and both faces equal in importance, Allen’s departs with the baby upheld and given the prominent position. Excerpt presumed to have been cast in plaster.

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