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"Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse", bronze sculpture | Lee Lawrie

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"THE FOUR HORSEMEN OF THE APOCALYPSE" BY LEE OSCAR LAWRIE (GERMAN/AMERICAN, 1877-1963)
Signed in cast LEE LAWRIE, incised verso "Roman Bronze Works N.Y."; bronze in a dark-brown chemical patina
Item # 902RPC02W 


Metro bought rights to produce a film based on the bestselling novel The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse by Vincente Blasco Ibanez, a multigenerational antiwar epic.  Rex Ingram directed the film and would be dubbed by the press "the sculptor of the screen", paying homage to his background as a sculptor during his studies under Lee Lawrie at Yale.  As a ground-breaking success, the film was critically acclaimed and became the highest grossing film of the year at over $ 4 million.  Metro commissioned Lee as Rex's former teacher and mentor to sculpt The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and to exhibit this work at the premier while using images of the sculpture in the press.  The Madison Capital Times Newspaper contemporaneously writes about the sculpture in their June 7th edition of 1922:

"Inspired by the Rex Ingram production of the "Four Horsemen of the Apocalpyse now showing at the Grand, Lee Lawrie, one of the most prominent of American sculptors, recently designed a group statue in bronze of the famous riders of the Apocalypse, as a result of witnessing Metro's picturization of the Ibanez' internationally famous novel... Both director and sculptor have been friends for many years, their acquaintance dating from the time when Mr. Ingram was a pupil of Mr. Lawrie at Yale University where the latter was a teacher of sculpture. Mr. Lawrie's study of The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse represents the grim horsemen riding madly over the top of a cathedral and each one of the figures, including War, Conquest, Famine and Death, was modeled with gruesome fidelity to the conception of the mythical riders"

Lee Lawrie's acceptance of Metro's commission for the sculpture is unusual, as he firmly believed art should be accessible to the broader public and not only available for private display; but his fondness for his student, Rex Ingram, coupled with the moving subject matter of the film led him to sculpt the Horsemen.

The work was cast exclusively by Roman Bronze Works of New York. The work represents Lee Lawrie's golden years of achievement, namely 1920-1935. It is a scarce and fine work. Lawrie's ability to handle the subject is breathtaking, as the figures degenerate gradually from the kingly figure of War through the final Ignominious Death; note also the mounts, each slowly diminishing in strength through the nearly skeletal representation of the final horse as they soar over a Gothic cathedral. 

Measurements: 24" H x 23" W x 9 1/2" D

Literature:

  • Bronzes: Sculptors and Founders 1800-1930, Vol. III, Harold Berman, 1977, p.677, f. 2491
  • A Century of American Sculpture: The Roman Bronze Works Foundry, Lucy D. Rosenfeld, Schiffer, 2002, p. 165-66, f. V-58
  • E. Benezit Dictionary of Artists, Vol. VIII, Gründ, 2006, p. 574
  • Dictionary of American Sculptors: 18th Century to the Present, Glenn B. Opitz, 1984, p. 234
  • American Art Deco, Alastair Duncan, 1986
  • Mantle Fielding's Dictionary of American Painters, Sculptors & Engravers, 1984, p. 551

Prior sales records: A cast by Roman Bronze Works at 24" H was offered at Freeman's in Philadelphia on October 6, 2009 as lot 973, achieving $ 18,750 against an estimate of $ 15-25,000

Condition Report:
Fine original condition with no observed flaws.