Reredos of Saint Thomas Church, at Fifth Avenue and 53rd Street in New York City
Lee Lawrie was born in Rixdorf, Germany, in 1877 and immigrated to the United States in 1882 as a young child with his family; they settled in Chicago. It was there, at the age of 14, that he began working for the sculptor Richard Henry Park.
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 the United States. After the breakup of the Cram, Goodhue firm in 1914, Lawrie continued to work with Goodhue until the architect died in 1924. He next worked with Goodhue’s successors.
Lawrie sculpted numerous bas reliefs for El Fureidis, an estate in Montecito, California designed by Goodhue. The bas reliefs depict the Arthurian Legends and remain intact at the estate today.
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.
After Goodhue's death, Lawrie produced important and highly visible work under Raymond Hood at Rockefeller Center in New York City, which included the Atlas in collaboration with Rene Paul Chambellan. By November 1931 Hood said, "There has been entirely too much talk about the collaboration of architect, painter and sculptor." He relegated Lawrie to the role of a decorator.
Lawrie's most noted work is not architectural: it is the freestanding statue of Atlas, on Fifth Avenue at Rockefeller Center, standing a total 45 feet tall, with a 15-foot human figure supporting an armillary sphere. At its unveiling, some critics were reminded of Benito Mussolini, while James Montgomery Flagg suggested that it looked as Mussolini thought he looked. The international character of Streamline Moderne, embraced by Fascism as well as corporate democracy, lost favor during the Second World War.
Featured above the entrance to 30 Rockefeller Plaza and axially behind the golden Prometheus, Lawrie's Wisdom is one of the most visible works of art in the complex. An Art Deco piece, it echoes the statements of power shown in Atlas and Paul Manship's Prometheus.
Allegorical relief panels called Courage, Patriotism and Wisdom over the entry doors to United States Senate chamber (done as part of the 1950 Federal-period remodeling of the Senate), Washington, D.C.
 - Lee Lawrie's Prairie Deco: History in Stone at the Nebraska State Capitol, new book on Lee Lawrie's work on the Nebraska State Capitol, which was Lawrie's largest commission of his 70 year career. For sale through Blurb.com
 Article on Greg Harm's research and discoveries about Mr. Lawrie and his work on the Nebraska State Capitol.