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Exploring and Documenting the Lost Sculptural Legacy of America’s Machine-Age Michelangelo Welcome and Thank You for Visiting!
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THE JOURNEY STARTED IN LINCOLN. NEBRASKA

Exploring the World of Lee Lawrie’s Sculpture

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Growing up in Nebraska, I had never heard of Lee Lawrie…

except for knowing that he had designed the Sower, the 19’ tall bronze statue of a primeval farmer, sowing his seeds.  I had only known this from having the 1982 Commemorative Poster celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the completion of construction on the Nebraska State Capitol from 1932.

It wasn’t until the year 2000, some 9 years after I had moved away from my hometown that I made my first trip to New York City and toured Rockefeller Center, that I again heard the name of Lee Lawrie. Lawrie had created the Atlas there, as well as the powerful Wisdom Creating the Universe that guards the entrance of 30 Rockefeller Plaza.   He actually created 14 sculptural and bas-relief works around the Center (which will be pictured on another page from this site.)   Moreover, Hildreth Meiere, who created the giant rondels  or round shield-like structures depicting art, music and drama on the south side of Radio City Music Hall, was also familiar with me as the artist that created a host of fantastic Guastavino Mosaic ceilings and floors at the Nebraska State Capitol.  

While I had known the names of both Lawrie and Meiere from the Capitol, I had no idea that they had done work elsewhere. But more surprising to me, was that these artists whose work appeared way out west in Nebraska, had also created art adorning Rockefeller Center, a complex of buildings that represent the epitome of Art Deco.

This revelation, of the connection between the Nebraska State Capitol and Rockefeller Center then struck me to wonder, “How in the world did Nebraska manage to land such apparent world-classed artists to create art for its Capitol, in the relatively agrarian and provincial culture of 1920s Nebraska?”  

The connection comes from their association with early 20th Century architect Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue.  Lawrie had introduced himself to Goodhue in 1895, when he was 18 and Goodhue only 26.  They would spend the next 29 years working together, with Lawrie creating all of the sculpture used on Goodhue’s architecture, whether individual residences or massive buildings like the Capitol. Their association lasted until Goodhue dropped dead from a stroke in 1924, at age 54, a mere two years after the Nebraska Capitol’s construction had commenced.

 So let us explore the legacy of sculpture that Lawrie created, but that still remains incompletely documented.

Visitors are encouraged to

Lawrie’s Sculpture across the nation, and beyond.

How many of these images from across the nation do you recognize?  His work is easily overlooked, since it has always been there, since before most of us were born.

WHAT YOU CAN DO HERE:

America’s Forgotten Machine Age Michelangelo

19.5 feet tall atop a 12.5 foot pedestal of grains, The Sower represents a primeval farmer, sowing seeds in hope of a future harvest.  He represents the aspirations of the people of Nebraska.  He weighs 3.5 tons and was installed on top of the Capitol in April, 1930.  He stands 400 feet above the ground.  

View something else.