Finn Haakon Frolich served as Director of Sculpture for the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition held in Seattle in 1909, and a colorful, engaging figure who enlivened many places around the world with his creativity and artistic inspirations. His legacy in Seattle includes two sculptures on the University of Washington campus remaining from the Exposition: the busts of Edvard Grieg and of James J. Hill busts, as well as the town of Beaux Arts.
Travels and Art Studies
Born in Oslo, Norway, on August 13, 1868, to a well-to-do family, he left home at age 9 to sail on a windjammer. By the time he was 14 he had become a second mate when a plague killed most of the crew of his ship. He left the ship in Brooklyn on July 15, 1886, at the age of 18 and answered an advertisement for a model by the neo-classical sculptor Daniel Chester French (1850-1931), an internationally known sculptor (later most renowned for the statue of Abraham Lincoln at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.) Frolich soon became a friend and protege.
In 1895, French sent Frolich to study in Paris at the Ecole de Beaux Arts and Ecole Nationale, where he studied under the famous American sculptor Augustus St. Gaudens (1848-1907). His spirit of adventure led him to Africa just before the Boer War where he sculpted a great head of President Paul Kruger of South Africa and a portrait statue of a Zulu chief's daughter, the first such work ever done from life.
He returned to New York and worked for six years in French's studio, assisting him with many important commissions including the great 70-foot statue of the Republic at the Chicago World's Fair. He also assisted Roland Hinton Perry in the sculpture The Fountain of Neptune, placed in front of the Library of Congress in 1897. His return to France in 1898 was to assist in the making of the the sculptor Alexander Phimister Proctor's monumental quadriga (a chariot drawn by four horses abreast) on the American building at the Paris Exposition. He also assisted French on the sculpture of a woman representing art in front of the St. Louis Art Museum at the World's Fair there in 1904.
Farthest from New York: Seattle
Frolich's arrival in Seattle came about through happenstance. "I had separated from my first wife, and there didn't seem to be another sculpting commission for me on the horizon in New York. I came off a drunk one morning in 1908, on 42nd Street in front of Grand Central Station. I went into the ticket office and asked the agent what kind of places they had and he asked, "What kind of place do you want?" The farthest away from here you got. So he gave me a ticket to Seattle" (Frolich).
After arriving in Seattle, Frolich had workshops in the old synagogue at 8th Avenue and Seneca and on 4th Avenue near Cherry. Among the sculptures he created in 1908 were: Fighting Bob (bust and medallion of Rear Admiral Robley D. Evans of the U.S. Navy exhibited at the Frederick and Nelson Department Store; Mr. Conant; Louise, a portrait bust of Madam Mary Louise Clary. who sang at the Arts and Crafts Exhibit in Seattle in 1908; and Light, a statue of a woman holding aloft a sphere of light.
Seattle was abuzz at this time with preparations for the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition and a design on paper of a great statue to stand on the topmost step of the Cascade fountain was made by E. F. Champney, chief designer for Howard and Galloway. Frolich submitted his model of the statue to be named the Spirit of the Pacific. It was so impressive that he was selected as the Director of Sculpture for the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition. By this time, of course, he had done work at fairs in Paris, St. Louis, and Chicago.
When Frolich completed the statue in its final form it was 30 feet high and showed the races of the Pacific. On the bottom were four figures, a Japanese, a Chinese, An Alaskan Eskimo Indian, and a Pacific Islander and these figures supported a massive fountain. Above, four women, one of each race, looked out to each part of the campus and stood around a shaft that supported a globe of the world. A winged figure representing the Spirit of the Pacific was atop the globe and completed the impressive statue. Although at least one source reported on the statue, many photographs of the Cascade fountain do not show it and it is not clear that it was ever displayed. For the fair Frolich also sculpted The Hunting, a South Seas Island statue, and the statue of Alaska personifying Mining.
A Magnate and a Composer
On August 3, 1909, Frolich's bronze bust of James J. Hill (1838-1916) the railroad magnate, was unveiled. It was presented to the Fair by the people of Minnesota on Minnesota Day. Mr. Hill posed for 10 days for the bust at his home in St. Paul in the early summer and although Hill was a very busy man, Frolich managed in that time to get satisfactory sittings. The clay model was finished in June. Thought to be the largest of its kind in the United States at the time, the bust and its granite pedestal are 22 feet high. Hill is shown with beard and moustache and wearing an overcoat. There are three bronze relief plaques on the pedestal. The one in front depicts a train, side plaques depict a steamship and a farmer plowing. The fourth one, which is missing, was the Seal of Washington. During the Fair, the Hill memorial stood in Klondike Circle south of the Fine Arts building. In 1953, the statue was moved to the terrace of More Hall between the Engineering and Mining buildings. It now stands on Stevens Way on the north side of More Hall.
On August 30, 1909, the statue of Edvard Grieg (1843-1907), Norwegian composer and pianist, was unveiled in the Natural Amphitheatre during the Norwegian Day ceremonies. The bust was commissioned by the Norwegians of the Seattle area who paid for it by building a Viking ship for Frolich's use after the exposition. Later the bust was cast in bronze and rededicated on September 30, 1917, in front of Old Meany Hall. It was stored for a while and next placed in Governor's Grove. Again it was stored because this site was chosen for the University of Washington's new Allen Library. After negotiations by the Seattle-Bergen Sister City Association, the bust now stands on an eight-foot pedestal in a large grove of birch trees off Skagit Lane northwest of Suzzalo Library. The dedication, sponsored by the sister-city association, was held in 1990 on Grieg's birthday, June 15. Dirt from Grieg's home and water from the neighboring bay were deposited around the statue.
The Library's Lion's Head
A new Beaux Arts central library building funded by Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919) opened in 1906 in downtown Seattle. On November 16, 1910, the Lion's Head Fountain designed by the architect M. Somervell was installed on the 4th Avenue side of the Seattle Public Library. Finn Frolich was commissioned to sculpt the lion's head for this fountain. H. B. Staley made the mold and cast the lion's head. Shortly after the fountain was installed, the building began to settle and many thought the whole library was going to fall into the Great Northern tunnel below.
Then, in 1957, the building was demolished and the mystery was, what happened to the lion's head? A foreman who removed it stated that a woman came along, admired it and asked if she could have it. The mystery woman was civic activist and arts patron Ann Gould Hauberg (b. 1917) who placed it on the Hauberg property on Bainbridge Island. The lion's head was later set in concrete on the John Hauberg (1916-1998) property located on Harbor Island in Elliott Bay. Hauberg was a civic leader, philanthropist, and patron of the arts
In 1911 Frolilch went to Portland and designed the potlatch float representing Seattle in Portland's Rose Festival.
Society and Town of Beaux Arts
Frolich was instrumental in forming the Society of Beaux Arts, a school of every art and craft, established to develop art and its appreciation in the Northwest. The society was housed in the old University Building in downtown Seattle where the Fairmont Olympic Hotel now stands. The Metropolitan Building Company had taken the lease on the ground and soon after, the old University building was torn down and the columns moved to the campus. Thus the artists lost their meeting place.
It had always been their dream to have property where they could live and work together. So, in 1908, Frolich along with two other members of the Society, Fred Calvert and Alfred Renfro, signed their names to the incorporation of the Western Academy of Arts and purchased a 50-acre tract of forest land on the western shore of Lake Washington (near Bellevue) for this purpose. Ten acres were set aside in the center for sketching grounds, workshops, cricket, a tennis court, and recreation area by members of the Beaux Arts Society. Frolich never lived there, but Renfro built the first home on the property in 1909, and Calvert built a home there in 1912. The town of Beaux Arts celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2008.
The Viking Ship
As promised by the Norwegian community, the Viking ship, built in Bothell for participation in the AYP, was presented to Frolich when the A-Y-P Exposition ended. It was his desire to sail the ship to Norway and present it to the government at the celebration of the centennial of Norwegian independence at Christania on May 17, 1914.
While living at Viking Camp, No. 14 at Madison Park, Frolich tried to raise money for the expedition by selling subscriptions to the Viking Magazine to be mailed each month from foreign ports to describe the adventures of the party, which would include Frolich' business manager Frederick Haslund, an American correspondent, a steward, a printer, and three Norse sailors. Unfortunately Frolich did not succeed in raising adequate funds and the venture failed.
Depressed and disappointed, Finn Frolich left the Northwest and went to California, but not before making headlines in Seattle papers on July 17, 1911, for kidnapping his six-months-old baby not knowing his wife Helen had divorced him. Charges were not filed and the baby, Virginia, was returned to her mother.
Once again, separated from a spouse, and nearly broke after making $35,000 at the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition, he turned his back, as he had in New York a few years before, and left the scene. In California he struck up a lasting and happy friendship with Jack London because of their love of the sea and the playing of games like poker and chess. He lived with London for three months in 1912 with mutual enjoyment.
In 1915, the Panama Pacific International Exposition opened and he, along with Daniel Chester French, created sculptures for the grounds in San Francisco. After moving to Los Angeles he attracted painters and sculptors with his outgoing and fun-loving personality, again forming art clubs where people could have good times but also support young and struggling artists. Some of his later art includes sculptures of Luther Burbank in 1914 and Roald Amundsen in 1928. In Hollywood he once made 100 statues in three months for a motion picture.
Finn Haakon Frolich died at age 79 on September 7, 1947, in a hospital in Salinas, California. His last home had been a trailer he had built and finally parked on the beach at Carmel, California. His survivors included his third wife Kala, his daughter Virginia and his son Guilford.