Nydia, 1913

The first of Allen’s ideal work shown in the 1914 opening of the Guild of Boston Artists

Lovely Agnes, the wife of the sculptor, was the muse for this luscious portrait of Nydia, the blind heroine of Pompeii. In his diary, Frederick Warren Allen noted that this was the first of his ideal work exhibited and that the reviews had “brought many good words.” The exhibit he spoke about was the opening show of the Guild of Boston Artists in November 1914, of which he was a founding member. The Concord Art Association in Massachusetts appropriately owns and displays his work today, Concord being the town in which Allen raised his family. CAA was also the venue for an exhibition showing his work in 1928.

One reviewer for that opening exhibit described Nydia as “crisply modeled,” “subtle and thoroughly modern.” (Providence Journal, Oct.24,1915) Modern Art was introduced to Bostonians in the historic Armory Show in 1914. The New York show in 1913 was a turning point for art in America. Abstraction became the popular expression, so sophisticated beautiful traditional art slowly lost appeal to museums and the public.

Nydia, like Allen’s Primeval Prayer in the same Guild exhibit, had modern elements, simplifying surface prettiness and extraneous details to create an enduring impression more powerful in it’s emotional appeal to the viewer. It was likely this stylistic direction taken by Allen that carried him through the time of upheaval in the Boston art community and secured his place as the new head of the Sculpture Department at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, a position he held until his retirement in 1957.

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