The Fremiet Bronzes – The Bear and The Gorilla

A catalogue raisonee refers to the 1899-1900 commission of the Park’s Denicheur  and Gorille. IMG_8696The Rock Island politician and railroad tycoon, Ransom Cable, commissioned the pair. Ransom’s family owned he Rock Island & Pacific Railroad, commonly referred in song and legend as the Rock Island Line. Mr. Cable intended the pair for his alma mater, the University of Michigan, but the pair were never installed there.


Instead the two bronze groups exhibited on loan at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. At some point, probably in the late 1920’s, Ransom’s widow loaned them to Lordado Taft to display in his wished-upon museum of fine art. Taft’s collection of the great world art never came to fruition. The two bronze pieces flanked the exterior red door of Taft’s Midway Studio on the grounds of the University of Chicago.

Lorado Taft died in 1936. The contents of his Midway Studio were purchased by the University of Illinois. The Chicago Tribune, reported on May 18, 1937, that Taft’s Midway Studios would be open to the public one final time, after which the contents were to be removed for ‘permanent exhibition’ at the University of Illinois. The two Fremiet bronzes were ‘erroneously’ included in the contents. The bronze pair came to what was, at the time, Robert Allerton’s private estate for ‘storage’. At the time, Robert and John Gregg Allerton were on an around the world cruise, departing in February, 1937, on the Queen Mary, to return in the mainland US in February, 1938, with a month layover in Hawaii. Dr. Allen Weller, an aspiring young associate professor, who was well liked and known by the Allerton’s was responsible for the pair’s deposit at the Allerton estate. Robert was indifferent to them. They didn’t belong to him and they were never installed within the gardens. When the Allertons gifted their estate to the University of Illinois in 1947, the two bronze creations, likewise, seemingly came with the estate, even though they were not installed within the gardens or woodlands like their other art holdings nor are they included in the contents of the estate gift. Dr. Weller would dedicate the rest of his academic career at the University of Illinois as a scholar of the life and works of Lorado Taft, tracing the path of a great American art scholar. The procurement of Taft’s personal papers and correspondence formed a significant body of Weller’s study, research and writings for the balance of his career at the University of Illinois rising to become Dean of the School of Fine Arts.

Red doors of Taft's Midway Studios

Red doors of Taft’s Midway Studios

If the two bronze groups were not so large and heavy, it would be easier to understand how the pair could have been collected along with the contents of Taft’s studios on the campus of the University of Chicago. The Gorilla and Bear flanked the exterior red doors of Taft’s Midway Studios. A small crane would have been required to lift and load the large bronzes. Dr. Weller must have had forethought and intention in order to have purloined the pair. And then, as if to conceal their whereabouts, they were taken to a very private estate with restricted access. It seems in looking at this in hindsight, Dr. Weller executed a well-planned art heist. Robert Allerton and John Gregg may well have been uninformed of their depositing in 1937 due to their absence, but they certainly became aware of them upon return from their world cruise. 1959 archive correspondence indicates the two bronze groups were not hidden from view and the University readily acknowledged that the Bear and Gorilla statues were on loan, and not owned by the University.

The Allerton estate opened to the public in 1948 as Robert Allerton Park. From 1937 until 1959 the Gorilla and Bear stood off the road next to a storage shed. From a letter written in 1959, it appears the pair were stored, off display. The University directed Dean Allen Wellen to inquire into the provenance and ownership of the Gorilla and the Bear which would soon lead to their gifting by the Ransom Cable’s daughter-in-law later that year. In the same year the pair were installed on the that leads east from the Foo Dog Garden around the goldfish pond. 

In 1977, the newly established and built Krannert Art Museum of the University of Illinois became the official owners, although they remained installed on the grounds of Allerton Park. In 1980, the Bear toured the United States as part of a large exhibit organized by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) entitled The Romantics to Rodin. Besides Los Angeles, the tour included stops in Minneapolis, Detroit, and Indianapolis. The Allerton Gorilla did not tour in this exhibition. Instead, the Gorilla group was represented by a reduction that was mass produced after the success following the 1887 Salon. The smaller grouping measures 17.5 inches high, 12 inches wide and a diameter of 15.5 inches compared to the life-sized Gorilla on exhibit at the Park.The Gorilla group was loaned by a Tennessee family.

After the tour, the Bear was returned to the Park until 1989 when, in response to controversy against racism, sexism and animal cruelty and threats to ‘melt them down’ both the Bear and Gorilla were taken off exhibit and placed in storage on the Allerton grounds. Their storage ended in 2006 when they were exhibited on loan at the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC. Following their return in 2007, the Fremiet pair were put on permanent exhibit in the Kinkaede Pavilion at the Krannert Art Museum on the campus of the University of Illinois. There, the bronze pair remained in their windowed sun room until last October, 2016, when they were re-installed at Allerton Park very near their original installation site of 1959. What a circuitous trajectory for these magnificent works of art.

In a recent February, 2017, Sotheby auction, a Fremiet bronze of a different subject matter and smaller size sold. It’s pre-auction estimate was $25-50,000. It sold for $140,000.

Like the Bourdelle Centaur installed at the opposite end of the Park and further on, the Sunsinger, these works represent significant museum quality pieces. Of the four, the Sunsinger seems to have weathered the elements the worst. That the Gorilla and Bear were stored or exhibited in protection from the elements and vandals is to their benefit. The Centaur has been exposed since his installation in 1924. He has weathered well with little maintenance.

Time Line of the Fremiet Bronze Pair – Denicher d’Oursons and Gorille Enlevant une Femme

1899 – Commissioned from Emmanuel Fremiet by the Honorable Ransom Cable

1900 – Arrived in the United States

1900-circa 1930 – on outdoor display at the American Museum of Natural History, NYC

1930-1937 – on outdoor display at Midway Studios, Chicago, IL – University of Chicago

1937-1959 – in outdoor storage on the Allerton estate / Allerton Park

1959-1989 – on outdoor woodland installation on a maintained trail at Allerton Park

1980 – Denicheur travels with The Romantics to Rodin Tour – Returned to woodland

1989-2007 – in indoor storage at Allerton Park

2007 – on indoor display at the National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.

2007-2016 – on indoor display at Kinkaede Pavilioin, Krannert Art Museum, University of Illinois

2016-Present – on outdoor woodland installation on a well maintained trail. The trail is accessible from the House, but in may experience temporary flooding along the flood plain. The Northeast corner of the Main Parking offers a good launching point for a short hike trail loop of slightly moderate intensity. Repellant is advisable from Memorial Day until Labor Day.

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All is Bright – Tuesdays – Saturdays Through January 15

img_7401ALL IS BRIGHT at The Park. Kirby Medical Center in Monticello is partnering with Allerton Park to bring people out of doors to enjoy an evening walk through a lighted magic land.img_7312img_7317img_7407img_7291
The path from the main parking lot to the House and finally to the Visitor’s Center is lined with strategically placed flood lights, dazzling twinkle lights and subdued back lighting.
Thursday, December 2, was the opening night of the light show. img_7044The Monticello High School Madrigals sang in the Courtyard. Amazing performance. img_7048Even the toddlers were  enchanted with the music and lights. img_7064


In the Brick Garden, the bell choir from Grace UMC from Urbana serenaded with familiar carols and Christmas tunes.


Warm drinks, cookies and fruit were offered to attendees in the Visitors Center.

img_7290While the live performances were a wonderful addition to the All is Bright Wellness Walk on December 2nd, subsequent visits to this holiday wonderland in the quiet of the evening have been equally inspiring.

The Park, usually closed at sunset (or 5 PM in Winter), is open for the public to enjoy the Wellness Walk from 5-8 PM, Tuesday’s thru Saturdays. The event ends January 15th, 2017. Kirby Medical Center wants to encourage the public to take an evening walk for wellness.img_7235

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The Fremiet Gorilla – Gorille Enlevant une Femme

Two bronze sculptures surprise the unsuspecting visitor walking the trail at Robert Allerton Park (aka ‘The Park’). Commonly just referred to as The Bear and The Ape or Gorilla, the pair are masterpiece works of art by Emmanuel Fremiet. They are signed by the artist and stamped by the Foundries that produced them.

Who is the hunted?

Who is the hunted?


Above the deep wound, is this a spear shaft protruding, or is the vent for the casting?

Above the deep wound, is this a spear shaft protruding, or is the vent for the casting?

The female huntress wears the Gorilla Totem in her hair

The female huntress wears the Gorilla Totem in her hair

1910 reference title - Gorille enlevant une negresse

1910 reference title – Gorille enlevant une negresse

The Bear Snatcher

The Bear Snatcher

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The “Snatcher of Baby Bears” – Fremiet Reinstalled

The Fremiet “Bear” previously installed at The Park has recently been reinstalled near its original installation site on the path near the newly renovated Goldfish Pond. The trail off the main parking lot or off the Foo Dog Garden will lead you to the two Fremiet bronzes.

Who was the first transgressor in this sculptural work?

The Hunter carries many weapons, tools or protective elements

The Hunter carries many weapons, tools or protective elements

Eight Feet Tall - Bronze - circa 1887

Eight Feet Tall – Bronze – circa 1887

The Bear - Emmanuelle Fremiet - circa 1887

The Bear – Emmanuelle Fremiet – circa 1887

The Hunter in the grips of a wounded bear

The Hunter in the grips of a wounded bear

Life and Death Struggle for Man and Bear

Life and Death Struggle for Man and Bear


Snatcher of Baby Bears

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Puvis de Chavannes at Allerton House and Boston Public Library

Boston Public Library Entrance

Boston Public Library Entrance

What does The Park (Robert Allerton Park) and the Boston Public Library have in common? The answer: Puvis de Chavannes.

Have you visited the Boston Public LIbrary. 2016 8 1 Left wall Library2016 Boston LIbrary Panorama from ground floorThe murals by the great French artist, Puvis de Chavannes were painted in his French studio on canvas to detailed measurements by the building’s architect, McKim (later McKim and White).
The panels were then installed by an assistant in 1895. 2016 Boston LIbrary Panorama from 2nd floorThe artist was 78 at the time of the creation of this mural masterpiece.

2016 Boston Library Puvis Portico murals

These are the only Puvisde Chavannes murals in the United States.

An alclove on mezzanine

An alclove on mezzaninede Chavannes mural in the United States.

The Art Institute of Chicago owns the de Chavannes painting entitled “The Sacred Grove.” Although for an undetermined length of time, it was installed at Allerton House in the Pine Room.

Vintage postcard c. 1960 of Pine Room at Allerton House with "The Sacred Grove" installed

Vintage postcard c. 1960 of Pine Room at Allerton House with “The Sacred Grove” installed

The archives contain a 1955 letter written by Robert Allerton requesting an indefinite loan of this painting for Allerton House. it is difficult to imagine this masterpiece hanging in the paneled conference room subject to open windows and summer humidity, dry  cigarette smoke, and all the unprotected people traffic that milled through the House during those years – Art Camps, 4-H, Home Extension, Garden Groups. At first reading of this archived letter, the reader can not conceive of the Art Institute granting this request. But the ephemera proves otherwise.

The Sacred Garden by Puvis de Chavannes is back at the AIC as part of its rotating collection.2009 7 14 de Chavannes Sacred Grove on exhibition at Chicago Art Institute According to the oral biography of Richard Pratt, architect and colleague of John Gregg while employed with the architect David Adler, it was commonplace for Directors and Members of the Art Institute of Chicago Board to borrow items from the AIC stores. Adler borrowed many architectural pieces to have them copied in his workshop for future use in his interior design.

A visit to the Boston Public Library is well worth the time to visit. Not only are the de Chavannes spectacular visions to grace the grand entrance to the Library, but the library artwork in another wing includes equally spectacular murals by John Singer Sargent. But that’s for another posting, since there is a stretch of a connection between Robert Allerton and John Singer Sargent.

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Fu Dog in a Garden

The fourth swallowtail released August 6th

The fourth swallowtail released August 6th

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There’s one more butterfly in The Park today

All butterflies, but especially the Monarch, in Piatt County, in Central Illinois, and throughout the Midwest Corn Belt are becoming ‘extinct.’ From early July until mid-August, intensive aerial application (crop dusting) of pesticides on row crop corn and soybeans is killing the honeybees, all species of butterfly and hummingbirds.

During the July crop dusting, when the Joe-Pye weed begins blooming, the aerial

Two Swallowtail feed on Joe Pye at the Centuar trail head

Two Swallowtail feed on Joe Pye at the Centuar trail head

application of pesticides coincides with the Swallowtail cycle. By nature, birds migrate, insects emerge or hatch based upon food source and season. The Black Swallowtail prefers parsley and dill in the caterpillar stage, but the adults feed on Joe-Pye. In 2006 during a very brief 24 hours in mid-July, the Centaur trail head, lined with Joe-Pye, became gathering place for countless numbers and many varieties of Swallowtail. 2007, as a result of the rapid switch to GMO corn and soybean production, widespread crop dusting began. Every year, this agricultural activity has increased in acres and poundage of pesticide applied. This year, the number of swallowtail seen on this same trail at any given time can be counted on two hands.

Eastern Black Swallowtail Caterpillar

Eastern Black Swallowtail Caterpillar

Now, in August, the attention turns to aerial application of pesticide on soybeans. This time of the year coincides when the milkweed are blooming, which is the only plant where the monarch lay their eggs. The caterpillar eat the milkweed, morph into chrysalis and emerge 10-14 days later as fully developed Monarch. Unlike Swallowtail which primarily hibernate in deep crevices or migrate only far enough to climates to winter over with food sources to maintain the generational cycle. The Monarch migrates thousands of miles from Canada to Mexico. Such migration requires several generations of Monarch for each yearly migration. The ‘stop’ in Central Illinois coincides with the prevalence of food available – which is flowering milkweed now primarily found along ditches. Few ditches are left unmown by early July. Owing to habitat loss and extensive pesticide use, we now have very few Monarch butterflies. This disappearance of the Monarch is well documented by scientists. The decline and disappearance of the honeybee population is also well documented. Many factors are at play, but widespread pesticide use is a major factor attributed to this coming extinction. This year we and our neighbors observe a sudden decline in hummingbirds.

This year, in order to do our small part, we have brought caterpillars found on the parsley (favorite of swallowtail) into the house to feed so they can successfully morph into butterflies. They are then released at The Park which is the most pesticide free zone we can find.

Swallowtail Chrysalis ready for Butterfly to Emerge

Swallowtail Chrysalis ready for Butterfly to Emerge

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So far, four have been released.

We have yet to find a Monarch egg or caterpillar.

What are we doing to our environment? What are we doing to our planet?

What do these pesticides do to us?





For more information:


Released Swallowtail on one of the pillars at the Centaur trail head


IMG_5524 IMG_5528 IMG_5533 IMG_5556

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How Did You Score on the Previous Test?

In case you missed the Wildflower Identification Field Test, refer to the previous post. How many different flowers can you identify in this photo? More than four?


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This is a Test….

……. of your knowledge of and ability to identify the Spring wildflowers of Allerton Park. Each of the following photos were taken this year (2016). From the given list of wildflower names, match each with the appropriate photo.

The list of Wildflower Common Names: Snow Trillium; Red Trillium; Trout Lily; Shooting Stars (bloomed); Shooting Stars (bloom stalk); Pussy Toes; Dutchmen’s Breeches (bloomed); Dutchmen’s Breeches (rhizomes); Phlox; Wild Geranium; Wild Ginger; May Apple; True Solomon’s Seal; False Solomon’s Seal; Swamp Buttercup; Spring Beauty; Bellwort; Toothwort; Bloodroot. (You can click on each picture for full screen view.)


IMG_2411IMG_2403IMG_3409 IMG_3385 IMG_2877 IMG_2849 IMG_2829


IMG_3553 IMG_3237 IMG_3185 IMG_3075 IMG_3067 IMG_3009 IMG_2955 IMG_2929 IMG_2897

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True or False Friend?

True Friends are like diamonds, Precious and Rare.

False Friends are like autumn leaves, Found Everywhere….



Throughout the Park, Solomon’s Seal grows abundantly. True Solomon’s Seal and False Solomon’s Seal look identical until it blooms and bears fruit. Once the budding is evident, it is quite easy to tell the two apart. Isn’t that like Life? In the first picture, can you tell which Solomon’s Seal it is?

Between Picture 2 and Picture 3, which one is true? Which is false?

Enjoy The Park.

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