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The Thinker [Bronze]


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The Thinker [Bronze]


Animal sculpture--20th century
Apes in art


The Thinker is a bronze sculpture of a seated chimpanzee with arms folded and legs crossed. His head rests on his proper right hand and is tilted back slightly giving the appearance of being in deep thought.


The Thinker, 1938 Bronze, cast 1988
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Ned Arbury 1991.001

Fredericks created this sculpture after George Gough Booth, the founder of Cranbrook Educational Community, asked him to make a "Thinker" for the steps of the Cranbrook Art Museum similar to Auguste Rodin's renowned Thinker, a cast of which is on the steps of the Detroit Institute of Arts. The pose Fredericks' Thinker assumes is a direct reference to Rodin's sculpture; however, Fredericks' replacement of Rodin's heroic male nude with a bemused chimpanzee is a thought provoking variation on the earlier statue. Fredericks' choice of a chimpanzee reveals his fondness for primates. Fredericks indicated that when Booth saw the compact composition of the chimp stroking his chin, he commented that it was not like Rodin would have done, but Booth was sure the chimp was thinking much more interesting thoughts than most of us are.


Fredericks, Marshall M., 1908-1998




Use of this image requires permission from the Marshall M. Fredericks Sculpture Museum






University Center (Mich.)

Sculpture Item Type Metadata

Physical Dimensions

23.75" x 15.5" x 15.25"


Bronze full-scale
Travertine base

Catalog Number


Object Location

Outside Museum entrance


1988 Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Ned Arbury


Note: One of Frederick's personal books was titled "The Great Ape" by Robert and Ada Yerkes can be found in the Sculptor's Studio on a work table.

Note: Apparently Booth didn't see it until dedication day and had no idea of what it would be even though he asked for a Thinker. At the time in America (1930s) the Darwin theories were hot news and then you have many museums who wanted to have one at the entrance to their museum. I'm sure that Booth was impressed with the DIA's Thinker and wanted one, too.

From Jennifer Lentz (Collection Documentation Intern 1991-1992)
Memo dated September 18, 1991

"RE: I Spoke with Mrs. Suture who told me the date on the plaque is September 12, 1965. She is going to contact me with further information on it including height."

Molly Barth copy:
At the entrance to the Marshall M. Fredericks Sculpture Gallery to the right of the doors is the bronze "Thinker." Mr. Booth, the founder Cranbrook, wanted a "Thinker," just like August Rodin's "Thinker" for the steps of the art museum at Cranbrook, and he came to Fredericks and asked if he could do a "Thinker" for Cranbrook. Fredericks tried different things, but, of course, to copy Rodin's "Thinker" in any way was unthinkable. So, Fredericks made this chimpanzee, and Mr. Booth came into his studio and looked at it for a moment, and said, "It just may be he's thinking far more interesting thoughts than we are. I'll take it!" It's there today, on the steps of the art museum there at Cranbrook, carved in black granite. We have a later bronze cast. This "Thinker" has a brown patina. Visitors may feel and touch this bronze; but please do not touch the other sculptures inside the gallery - particularly the white plaster models.

From 1995 Mary Iorio of Cranbrook, interview with Fredericks: Fredericks had a pet monkey while at Cleveland School of Art.