Sunday, January 24, 2016

53 Anniversary of the Death of Lee Lawrie.

Yesterday,  marked the 53rd anniversary of the passing of architectural sculptor Lawrie on January 23,1963. He was 85.  Lawrie was not widely recognized outside of the architectural community, but was one of the nation's great early adaptors and practitioners of the Moderne, as it was called then, but what we now call Art Deco.  

Below is his most recognizable work, the Atlas at Rockefeller Center. 

While the top of the armillary sphere above him reaches a height of 42, one could argue that his Sower atop the Nebraska State Capitol, done during the previous decade, was actually the larger, or at least the more massive of the two sculptures.
Photo courtesy of his grand-daughter, Mrs. Jean Ely.  

This photo of the Sower, being modeled in Lawrie's studios in Harlem.  The calendar in this photo dates to July, 1929.  He was installed 400 feet above the ground in April, 1930.  after being cast in bronze.   He is 19 feet tall, atop a 13 foot pedestal of sheaves of grain. 

To learn more about him and his work, please visit my site,

#artdeco #modernism #Manhattan #moderne art, 

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Building the Big Book.

For at least the past decade, I've been rumbling about my desire to publish a big, comprehensive, encyclopedic tome, chronicling the life and art of 20th Century Art Deco arcitectural sculptor Lee Lawrie (1877-1963). 

Over the past decade, I have authored two book on him and his work. The first listing all of the sculpture at the Nebraska State Capitol (his largest commission of a 70+ year career, on which he worked some 14 years,) and recently, I completed a book detailing all of his aculpture on Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue's Los Angeles Central Public Library.  The writing is finished on this and it is currently in production, with its hopeful publication date in June 2016.

These books tell the stories behind the sculpture, and explain its symbolism.  

It is my plan to create one or two blog postings per month, each detailing anothe one of Lawrie's sculptures, of which, there are hundreds, in 23 states, Hawaii, France, England and perhaps Cuba and Panama.  

If you want to get on my mailing list, to learn when these "chapters" or serialized updates are published, please email me at info at

Stay tuned for more.

This is the Maquette for the War Memorial in St. Thomas Epiacopal, on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. 

The actual sculpture incorporated some minor changes. Circa 1925.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

A while back, I was researching some of my old photographs that I took of documents in Lawrie's archives at the library of Congress.  This page lists a number of works that were documented, probably as he worked on his never-completed autibiography, "Boy Wanted" referring to the want ad he answered at age 14 for a boy to work in the studio of a Chicago sculptor, Henry Parks. 

Anyway, one of the entries on this page mentions a portrait he did of "a missionary named Crosby in Harpoot, India."  A handwritten note in the margin places the date for this around 1908, but the note is most likely in the hand of Millie Lawrie, Lee's widow.  While she had helped him type up pages intended for his autobiography, she was likely the typist of this document as well. 

Upon researching this topic, there is a city named Harput, also spelled as Harpoot in some texts, but it's in Turkey--not India. 

But God bless the Internet: a little searching led me to discover that there actually was a missionary named Crosby, and he was connected with the place called Harput.  

His actual name was Crosby H. Wheeler, and he first traveled to Harput with his family in 1857 as a missionary.  In time, he founded the Armenian College in Harput, later re-named Euphrates College. Wheeler served as the institution's first principle. The complex also included an orphanage and a boys and girls high school.

On his blog, a researcher named Bill Milhomme gives us a biography of Reverend Wheeler, who founded this college, but left Turkey following Hamidian massacres conducted on Armenians in Turkey in 1895 and 1896.

The college remained operating until 1896, when Kurds looted and burned vilages on the Harput Plains.  Shortly thereafter, Reverand Wheeler and his family fled the country, returning to the United States, where he became ill and died shortly thereafter. 

In reading this, and following links on Millhomme's blog, I learned that during WWI, massacres of Armenians took place, which they refer to as the first modern Genocide, but which the Turks continue, apparently, to deny the existence of.

As it turns out, Millhome has done extensive research on this massacre, and has posted references to first-hand accounts of it on his blog.

Moreover, genocide or not, the New York Times featured this article on these incidents, that took place a century ago this coming week.  

Millhomme's article notes that the remaining faculty, who had taught at Euphrates, were massacred in the 1915 massacres.  

Lawrie's connection to the American Armenians and history a century ago.  

Whatever side of this controversy we come down on a century later, it still strikes nerves among either its perpetrators-- or survivors's survivors.  

In my research, I have found no evidence to suggest that Lawrie ever traveled to Turkey to make  a portrait of Reverend Wheeler, but in that he returned to Auburndale,  Massachusetts, it if the portrait was done in 1908, it was positively a posthumous portrait, most likely done from photographs of Reverend Wheeler, such as the one and perhaps the one pictured on Millhomme's blog. 

As a scholar of Lawrie's work, I seek to locate and document as much of Lawrie's work as I can, and there may be records of this work, stating that it still exists, but that remains to be researched. 

In any case, I will keep researching to see whether I can locate either a photograph of the portrait, or the work itself.  I suspect it resides somewhere, perhaps in a basement or an attic in the Auburndale area.  In any event, I'll keep looking for the work. 

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Aldus in the News: 500 years after his death.

From the Los Angeles Public Library's Printer's Tunnel, here is a picture of Aldus Manutius, as sculpted by Lee Lawrie. 

The New York Times just ran a story on Aldus, celebrating the 500th anniversary of his death.  

The article attributes his printing as being responsible for the ability to read paperbacks in the modern world. 

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Looking For Clues.

I often encourage people to contact me through my website,, and have a contact form there where visitors can leave questions, comments &c. 

I recently learned that a visitor from Washington, D.C. had reached out to me, and had some questions about a work there, that is attributed to Lee Lawrie. 

Here is an old postcard from my collection of the Municipal Building in Washington D. C.  

I knew that Lawrie had done some sculpture there, but was unable to find this building when I last visited there. 
A 1955 UGA Press book on Lawrie mentioned that he had done a sculpture there recently. 

Here is Lawrie's original sketch for the sculpture, from the Library of Congress. This was another clue. 

After visiting with Ms. Johnson, she sent me this information on the panel, along with her photograph of it. 
Sylvia wrote,

"In the book "Washington Sculpture," it says: 'The sculpture was started in 1940 by Lee Lawrie. It shows Columbia pouring water into a basin held by mother and child while also holding a lamp to light the way for another citizen.'
"It was designed to complement a similar panel sculpted by John Gregory. It was intended to symbolize the municipal services of Light, Water, and Thoroughfare. Lawrie was about two-thirds through with carving this sculpture when work stopped in late 1941 after several holes developed in the granite. The city was finally paid for the damaged stone in 1944, but the work was not resumed because of WWII.' "

She continues,
"Goode's book goes on to say the sculpture was boarded up for 36 years when in 1977 a second sculptor, Harold C Vogel, was engaged to complete it. Vogel fitted pieces of matching granite into the half dozen holes that existed when Lawrie stopped work. Goode has a little more detail but these are the important points."

As we continued our correspondence, I told Sylvia about other works that Lawrie has, also in D.C.  The next thing I know, she sent me these three images of the doors to the Adams Building, which is an annex of the Library of Congress, located across the street North of the U.S. Capitol. 

In about 1930 or 1931, Lee Lawrie created these bronzed doors, that celebrate historic figures who were representative of Literature, or involved with literature among their native cultures.

These images are from doors, that have been renovated, where the patina of the bronze was removed, and the doors polished.  Moreover, when the doors were removed, the Washington Glass School made glass castings of the figures, and reproduced them in sculptural glass. More on that here. 

This past week, she sent me some new photographs she had taken of the door figures, as shown below. 

"The god Quetzalcoatl, is the Feathered Serpent or Precious Twin. He is the god intelligence and self-reflection, a patron of priests.

Quetzalcoatl is a primordial god of creation, a giver of life. With his opposite Tezcatlipoca he created the world. Quetzalcoatl is also called White Tezcatlipoca, to contrast him to the black Tezcatlipoca.

As the Lord of the East he is associated with the morning star, his twin brother Xolotl was the evening star (Venus). As the morning star he was known by the name Tlahuizcalpantecuhtli, "lord of the star of the dawn." An other representation of Quetzalcoatl is Ehecatl, the Wind God. His calendrical name is Ce Acatl (One Reed).

After the last world, the Fourth Sun had been destroyed, Quetzalcoatl went to Mictlan, the land of the death, and created our current world, the Fifth Sun, by using his own blood to give new life to bones. Quetzalcoatl is also the giver of maize (corn) to mankind. 

In the tonalpohualli, Quetzalcoatl rules over both the second day, Ehecatl (wind), and the second trecena, 1-Ocelotl (jaguar). He is Lord of the Day for days with number 9 ("chicunahui" in Nahuatl)." 
From the site:

Sequoyah more...


My thanks go out to Sylvia for generously sharing these images with us. 

Thursday, February 19, 2015

My Second Book about the Art of Lee Lawrie is Nearing Completion. This one covers his Forgotten Art Deco Treasures at the Los Angeles Public Library

This past weekend, I reached the conclusion of the rough draft-first take-manuscript of my new book, Passing Torches: Lee Lawrie's Art Deco Sculpture at the Los Angeles Public Library.  

I visited the library and shot most of these photos in November 2011.  It has taken me four and a half years to complete my research, and now the book is ready to head to the editor, just about. 

The book details the work of the little known 20th Century architectural sculptor on the Art Deco masterpiece of the Los Angeles Public Library.  This was the last building started by Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue, the architect of the Nebraska State Capitol and more than a hundred other buildings around the nation.  He died before it was completed. 

Together with Hartley Burr Alexander, the best-educated Nebraskan the state produced in the 20th Century, Lawrie created magnificent Art Deco sculpture for the building's interior and exterior.  The image above is known as the Torch Race, celebrating the passing of knowledge from the Eastern World to the West. But moreover, the art on the building celebrates and communicates its purpose--as a temple of learning. 

It is decorated with figures from the worlds of literature, science, printing, philosophy, religion, mythology, and even children's literature--introducing these figures to the world in an age nearly 90 years ago, when the Internet was not even science fiction. 

The book will (likely) be completed by Summer at the latest. I gotta get this baby wrapped so I can move on to the third book, the big one, chronicling everything I know about the man and his forgotten work.  

The working title of the 3rd book is Oblivion: Discovering the Lost Sculptural Legacy of the Forgotten Master, Lee Lawrie. 

 To see more, visit and please share the site. 

#leelawrie, #art_deco, #architectural_sculpture, #los_Angeles, #art_history, #bertram_grosvenor_goodhue, #civilization, #learning.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

In September 2011, I published Lee Lawrie's Prairie Deco: History in Stone at the Nebraska State Capitol, 3rd Edition.  

The third edition was a print run of 250 copies.  To do this, I hired my own printer, editor and graphics layout guy. To finance this, I had to withdraw money from my retirement account.  While I have sold all of the books, all of the revenue from the sales was invested back into the tools that I need to continue my research, like traveling to California from Austin to photograph the Los Angeles Public Library, which is the subject of my forthcoming book, Passing Torches: Lee Lawrie's Art Deco Sculpture at the Los Angeles Public Library.

I'm writhing this book as an iBook, which necessitated the purchase of a Mac computer in order to use the platform, and as you know, they're not cheap.

So now that I have sold out of the print versions of Prairie Deco--3rd Edition,  I am updating the book and planning to publish it as a print-on-demand book through Barnes & Noble's Nook Publishing,  which can print the book on demand at a price cheap enough to allow me to resell them with a fractional profit.  They will cost about 40% more than printing them in a large lot with my own printer, however, they will be available with about a week or so wait time from order to delivery, or so I am told. 

I have also bitten the bullet and subscribed to Adobe's Creative Cloud, but just the InDesign portion of it, to update and reformat the book.  The new one will have an index and a Library of Congress call number for it, which will make it more user-friendly for Libraries. 

If I understand correctly, Nook will also allow the publication in eBook form to let users download the book as well.

The eBook option will allow my readers to get the book more cheaply, and that--at least in theory--will mean the book will be accessible to more readers.

I estimate that I will have this 4th Edition published before summer arrives, so maybe you can take it to the beach and read it. 

Anyway, I'd like to thank all of my readers that currently own the 3rd Edition for buying it.  I couldn't keep going without having sold the existing books.  

In my mind, selling out all 250 copies is monumental for a self-publisher like myself.  

I'd also like to point out that in addition to libraries across the State of Nebraska, and several other states, you can now access the 3rd Edition at Yale University, Columbia University and the Library of Congress or any of the total of 27 libraries that stock the book. 

Of course, you can still get the digital edition for just $1.99 on Amazon.  

Well, thanks again for all of your support!