Black FoxArtist(s)Fred AltenObject Creation Date1912-1945Medium & Supportcarved and painted woodDimensions
1 13/16 x 8 7/8 x 2 13/16 in. (4.5 x 22.5 x 7 cm)Credit LineGift of The Daniel and Harriet Fusfeld Folk Art CollectionLabel copy
United States, 1871–1945
Carved and painted wood
Gift of the Daniel and Harriet Fusfeld Folk Art Collection, 2002/1.214
After a move from Ohio to Wyandotte, Michigan, Fred Alten began to create an animal menagerie in the privacy of his garage. Using the 1880 natural history encyclopedia Johnson’s Household Book of Nature as a guide, Alten carved everything from present-day animals to prehistoric dinosaurs. When he became ill after his wife’s death, Alten moved back to Ohio, leaving his 158 finished carvings behind. The carvings were discovered in Alten’s garage in 1975—thirty years after his death.
(Out of the Ordinary, 2010)
Born in Lancaster, Ohio, Alten moved to Wyandotte, Michigan with his family in 1912. In Wyandotte, Alten worked in various positions including piano mover, foreman at Ford Motor Company, carpenter, and janitor. During his time in Wyandotte, Alten carved animals in his garage. Carving simply for enjoyment, Alten allowed almost no one into the garage and kept his carving a secret. After his wife’s death, Alten stopped carving and moved back to Lancaster, Ohio, where he soon died.
Alten carved several different species of animals, some of which are prehistoric. His inspiration is unknown, but it is believed that Alten worked from magazine and book illustrations. Textured wax was often used to represent fur and hair. Like Black Fox, most of the animals are painted in black despite their natural color.
Modern and Contemporary Art Intern
2002Primary Object Classification Sculpture Primary Object TypefigureAdditional Object Classification(s)Wood and WoodcarvingCollection AreaWesternRights
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