Ask anyone who lives in Metro Detroit if they know the work of sculptor Marshall Fredericks and you may get a reference to “The Spirit of Detroit,” or “The Boy and Bear,” which once graced the now-closed Northland Shopping Center.
Both works were represented in two pieces that Ed McHale of Grosse Pointe Woods recently brought in for appraisal. Bob DuMouchelle took a look at the two items — both much smaller than their namesakes — at an appraisal session recently held downtown.
McHale brought in a “Spirit of Detroit” medal that he acquired in the late 1960s as well as a Pewabic tile that depicts the head of the boy from “The Boy and Bear.” McHale purchased the tile, which commemorated Northland’s 40th anniversary, from the Detroit pottery in 1994. “It was the last one in the case,” he remembered, telling DuMouchelle more about their backgrounds. The back of the tile reads “80 of 335 Limited Edition” and has “MF” for Marshall Fredericks.
The 2 1/2 –inch medal depicting “The Spirit of Detroit” was commissioned in 1963 and was minted in bronze or gold-filled, DuMouchelle told him. It was among the two different 1 1/2 or 2 1/2 Detroit Mayor’s medals presented by then-mayor Jerome P. Cavanagh and his administration. Similar examples were found on page 221 of “Marshall M. Fredericks Sculptor,” edited by Suzanne Fredericks.
“Marshall was prolific, that’s for sure,” said DuMouchelle, who reminisced about meeting the artist and visiting the sculptor’s former studio in Royal Oak. “It was a very cool studio and he was so gracious. It would have been a great place for a tribute to him.” The contents of his studio were donated to a Saginaw museum after his death.
According to askart.com and the Marshall M. Fredericks Sculpture Museum in Saginaw (marshallfredericks.org), the prolific artist grew up in Cleveland and graduated from the Cleveland School of Art, later studying with Swedish artist Carl Milles, who asked him to join the staff of Cranbrook Academy of Art and Cranbrook/Kingswood Schools in Bloomfield Hills.
“After World War II, the sculptor worked continuously on his numerous commissions for fountains, memorials, free-standing sculptures, reliefs and portraits in bronze and other materials. Many of his works have spiritual intensity, lighthearted humor and a warm and gentle humanist spirit like that found in Fredericks himself. Fredericks was the recipient of many American and foreign awards and decorations for his artistic and humanitarian achievements. He exhibited his work nationally and internationally; many of his sculptures are in national, civic, and private collections,” according to marshallfredericks.org. He lived in Birmingham until his death in 1998 and the contents of his studios were moved to Saginaw, where they can be seen today.
DuMouchelle appraised the medal for $300-$600, and the tile for about $300, maybe more. McHale said he’ll keep them a bit longer. “I may give the tile to the city of Southfield eventually,” he said.
DuMouchelle said there would be a market for both items were he to ever sell them. “We sell a lot of Fredericks’ works,” says DuMouchelle. “He’s definitely well-loved.”
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About this item
Item: Marshall Fredericks items
Owner: Ed McHale, Grosse Pointe Woods
Appraised by: Bob DuMouchelle, DuMouchelles
Estimated value: $300 and up each