Lee Lawrie was born in Rixdorf, Germany, in 1877, and came to America with his family at the age of four. Very early in life he demonstrated artistic ability and at one time worked in the studio of Beaux Arts sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens.
Lee Lawrie ( Bisonwerks )
A self-taught sculptor, he earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Yale and taught there until 1919. He began working with Goodhue in 1895, his specialization in architectural sculpture complemented Goodhue’s early Gothic revival designs. The reredos (carved stone altar screen) in St. Thomas Church in New York is an important example of his collaboration with Goodhue which culminated in the exterior sculpture of the Capitol in Lincoln.
Goodhue and Lawrie had a vision of the exterior sculpture for the Capitol being an integral part of the architecture. Lawrie’s figures are engaged with the building, not separate and free standing, their form coming from the stone, buttresses and pylons of the building face. All but one of Lawrie’s sculptural works on the Nebraska Capitol are in bas relief. “The Sower” a 19 foot tall bronze statue is mounted on top of the capitol and represents Nebraska’s agricultural heritage. The statue emphasizes the importance of agriculture to noble life and civilization; it also serves as a lightning rod for the capitol.
The Sower by Lee Lawrie
With his work for Nebraska, Lawrie brought architectural sculpture into the modern era. Later work on Rockefeller Center continued this modern emphasis. From 1921-1954 Lawrie received eight national architectural and sculptural awards. He died in 1963, one of America’s foremost architectural sculptors.
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The architect who designed the Nebraska State Capitol was Bertram Goodhue. The thematic program of the Capitol was developed by Dr. Hartley Burr Alexander. Sculptor for the Capitol was Lee Lawrie, and Hildreth Meiere designed all the floor and ceiling mosaics. The building was constructed over a ten year period in four building phases. Construction began in 1922 and was completed in 1932. Total cost of the building was just under $10 million.
Capitol quick facts
- Construction started in 1922, completed in 1932.
- The architect was Bertram G. Goodhue.
- There are 15 floors above ground.
- The building is 400 feet tall.
- It is the third Nebraska State Capitol.
- It cost $9.8 million in 1932 dollars.
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