Artist Name

birth10/16/1877 in Rixdorf (Neukölln), GermanyPicture of Lawrie
death1/23/1963 in Easton, MD
educationYale University, BFA (1910)
awards Eight national and architectural awards (1921-1954)

Lee Oscar Lawrie was born in Rixdorf, Germany, and came to the United States in 1882 as a young child, settling in Chicago. It was there, at the age of 14, that he began working for the sculptor Richard Henry Park.

In 1892 he assisted many of the sculptors in Chicago, constructing the "White City" for the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893. Following the completion of the work at the Exposition, Lawrie returned East and became an assistant to William Ordway Partridge. The next decade found him working with other established sculptors: Augustus Saint-Gaudens, Philip Martiny, Alexander Phimister Proctor, John William Kitson and others. His work at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, St Louis, 1904, under Karl Bitter, the foremost architectural sculptor of the time, allowed Lawrie to further develop both his skills and his reputation as an architectural sculptor.

Lawrie received a bachelor's degree in fine arts from Yale University in 1910. He was an instructor in Yale's School of Fine Arts from 1908 to 1919 and taught in the architecture program at Harvard University from 1910 to 1912.

Lawrie's collaborations with Ralph Adams Cram and Bertram Goodhue brought him to the forefront of architectural sculptors in America. After the breakup of the Cram, Goodhue firm in 1914, Lawrie continued to work with Goodhue until Goodhue's premature death in 1924, then with his successors.

The Nebraska State Capitol and the Los Angeles Public Library both feature extensive sculptural programs integrated with the surface, massing, spatial grammar, and social function of the building. Lawrie's collaborations with Goodhue are arguably the most highly developed example of architectural sculpture in American architectural history.

Lawrie served as a consultant to the 1932 Century of Progress Exposition in Chicago. He was a member of the National Institute of Arts and Letters, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the National Academy of Design, and the Architectural League of New York. Among his many awards was the AIA Gold Medal of the American Institute of Architects in 1921 and 1927, a medal of honor from the Architectural League of New York in 1931, and an honorary degree from Yale University. He served on the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts from 1933 to 1937 and again from 1945 to 1950.

Lawrie died in 1963, one of America's most important architectural sculptors.

You can click on the medals to see the reverse.

Whatsoever Man Soweth 1932
by Lee Lawrie
Golden bronze with brown patina
Golden bronze with tan patina
Golden bronze with brown highlights

This medal was chosen as the fifth issue of the prestigious Society of Medalists series in 1932. The obverse bears a sower scattering seeds under a stylized sun. Above, WHATSOEVER A MAN SOWETH; in exergue, LAWRIE / © The reverse bears a sickle poised over a wheat ear and a nettle. Across, THAT SHALL HE ALSO REAP

Lee Lawrie was fascinated by the sower and reused this motif time and again in many projects. Originally conceived for the Nebraska State Capital, where it adorns the dome in the form of a giant statue, he also used it on the Rockefeller Center in New York. In the artist's own words:

"All of us are sowers, and we should not expect life to yield much in return for little, or little for nothing, or anything at all for the mere wishing - either in a material or in a higher, abstract way."

The medal measures 73mm in diameter and was struck by the Medallic Art Company of New York. The reported production quantity is 1,617 in bronze and 35 in silver.

References: Marqusee 241

73.0mm (2.87in)
Golden bronze with brown patina
73.0mm (2.87in)
Golden bronze with tan patina
73.0mm (2.87in)
Golden bronze with brown highlights
73.0mm (2.87in)
SOM-5 Romance Brochure #1 SOM-5 Romance Brochure #2 SOM-5 Romance Brochure #3
Rockefeller Center1935

The obverse bears classic art deco view of building with sun behind and clouds on sides. Around, ROCKEFELLER CENTER.

The reverse bears medallic version of Lawrie's bas-relief panel on face of Rockefeller center. God with crown and long wavy beard frowning from sky. Below, WISDOM AND / KNOWLEDGE SHALL BE / THE STABILITY / OF THY TIMES.

The medal measures 70mm in diameter and was struck by the International Silver Company.

American Defense Service Medal1942

The medal's obverse is a female Grecian figure symbolic of defense, holding in her sinister hand an ancient war shield in reverse and her dexter hand brandishing a sword above her head, and standing upon a conventionalized oak branch with four leaves. Around the top, AMERICAN DEFENSE

The reverse bears a seven-leafed spray of laurel below. Across center field, FOR / SERVICE / DURING THE / LIMITED EMERGENCY / PROCLAIMED BY / THE PRESIDENT / ON SEPTEMBER 8,1939 / OR DURING THE / UNLIMITED EMERGENCY / PROCLAIMED BY / THE PRESIDENT / ON MAY 27,1941

The American Defense Service Medal was a military award of the United States Armed Forces, established by Executive Order 8808, by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, on June 28, 1941. The medal was intended to recognize those military service members who had served on active duty between September 8, 1939 and December 7, 1941.

Lee Lawrie created the design for the medal. The model was approved by the Commission of Fine Arts on May 5, 1942.

The medal measures 32mm in diameter.

  • The Sower

    The Sower (1927)

    Atop the 400 foot tower of the Nebraska State Capitol stands a figure casting the seeds of life to the winds....the Sower. The statue of the Sower, modeled after the traditional method of hand sowing grain for planting, is a symbol of the importance of Agriculture to the development of civilization. Agriculture is the foundation upon which Nebraskans have built a noble life. The monumental sculpture, with its 12 and 1/2 foot pedestal of shocks of wheat and corn and 19 1/2 foot tall figure, was created by New York sculptor, Lee Lawrie. Lawrie represents this timeless symbol of Agriculture as a barefoot man, shirt sleeves and pant legs rolled up as he works, wearing a sun hood. The 3/8 inch thick bronze sculpture is reinforced by an interior steel framework and weighs nearly 9 1/2 tons.

    Lawrie used the Sower throughout his career in many different places, among them as the design for the obverse of the Society of Medalists' fifth issue.

    Image used with permission from the Nebraska Capitol Committee.

  • Wisdom, 30 Rockefeller Plaza

    Wisdom (1933)

    Lee Lawrie was one of the famous artists chosen to decorate the Rockefeller Center. Lawrie's exterior sculpture depicts a modernist-style figure pushing away the clouds of ignorance. He draws energy from the cosmic forces and the giant compass below. The words etched in stone above the door read: "Wisdom and Knowledge Shall Be The Stability Of Thy Times," which is a passage from Isaiah.

    Two smaller sculptures called "Light" and "Sound" are part of the overall design.

    Lawrie also used the Wisdom motif on the Rockefeller Center memorial medal.

    Image from Wikipedia.

  • Atlas, on Rockefeller Plaza

    Atlas (1937)

    Atlas is a bronze statue in front of Rockefeller Center in midtown Manhattan, New York City, across Fifth Avenue from St. Patrick's Cathedral. The sculpture depicts the Ancient Greek Titan Atlas holding the heavens. It was created by sculptor Lee Lawrie with the help of Rene Paul Chambellan, and it was installed in 1937.

    The sculpture is in the Art Deco style, as is the entire Rockefeller Center. Atlas in the sculpture is 15 feet (4.6 m) tall, while the entire statue is 45 feet (14 m) tall, as high as a four-story building. It weighs 7 tonnes (7,000 kg),[3] and is the largest sculpture at Rockefeller Center. The North-South axis of the armillary sphere on his shoulders points towards the North Star as seen from New York City.

    When Atlas was unveiled in 1937, some people protested, claiming that it looked like Italian dictator Benito Mussolini. Later, painter James Montgomery Flagg said that Atlas "looks too much as Mussolini thinks he looks".

    Photo: Kokyat, courtesy of Oberon's Grove.

Contact me if you have links that might merit inclusion on this page.

Books & Articles

American Art Medals, 1909-1995 by David Thomason Alexander
David T. Alexander's book can be purchased at the above link. Highly recommended for anyone interested in SOM. I am deeply indebted to him for all the information I used to document the SOM medals on this site.
American Sculpture in the Metropolitan Museum of Art Volume II
A Catalogue of Works By Artists Born Between 1865 and 1885 Edited By Thayer Tolles; Catalogue By Donna J. Hassle (Volume 2).
Dictionary of American Sculptors
Glenn Opitz' book covering many of the sculptors listed on this site.
Masters of American Sculpture
Donald Martin Reynolds authoritative work on figurative sculpture from 1893 to today.
Lee Lawrie's Prairie Deco
Gregory Paul Harm's work on Lawrie. Greg has followed Lee Lawrie's works all over the country.
American Art Deco: Architecture and Regionalism
A lavishly illustrated survey of American Art Deco architecture by Carla Breeze.

Research Archives and Websites
Greg Harm's wonderful website about all things Lawrie. A great resource!