Bas Relief Figures

Lee Lawrie, 1924, relief figures over the Flower Street entry to the Los Angeles Public Library, Central Branch, Los Angeles. The following is a description from the "Hand Book of the Central Building Los Angeles Public Library", published in 1927, p. 20: "Emblematically the west entrance is one of the most significant, for here the image of light is given its fullest symbolism below the central tower. The inscription is the Latin of Lucretius, "Et quasi cursores vitai lampada tradunt," taken from a famous passage: Races of men increase and races fade/And in brief space tribes fare their mortal way/Like runners passing on the lamp of life. The idea is that of the ancient torch race, the flame of knowledge passed from people to people through successive ages, and it may have been suggested to the Roman poet by the passage at the beginning of Plato's Republic, where the Greek philosopher uses the like image. The symbolic torch race gives the subject for the relief panel on this front and it is peculiarly in keeping with the great images of the Morning and Evening Stars, Phosphor and Hesper, which rise above this panel, for there is little question but that in the dawn of the torch race was a ritual of the rising and the setting of the heavenly luminaries. Phosphor and Hesper here are taken also as symbolizing the East and the West, with the light of wisdom carried forward in succession by the great thinkers of each world who have taken up the torch in the age-long course."

The south side of the library, facing Hope Street, has bas reliefs by Lee Lawrie. The following is a description from the "Hand Book of the Central Building Los Angeles Public Library", published in 1927, pp. 17-18: "...the light of learning, is the theme of the sculptural decorations and of the inscriptions which adorn the library building. The key to the whole plan is the ray-encircled book above the terrace entrance on the south front, upon which from Psalms 119:105 in the Latin of the Vulgate are the words, "Lucerna pedibus meis...lumen semitis meis," (a lamp to my feet...a light to my paths). Directly below the book is a panel bearing the inscription: "In the world of affairs we live in our own age; in books we live in all ages"....Flanking the image of the book, on either side of the lintel of the doorway, are two beautifully engaged images, to the left Reflection, or the Thinking, to the right Expression, or the Writer. For the first of these the sculptor has taken his inspiration from Greek art...for the second, his motive is the Egyptian scribe..."

The north side of the library, facing Fifth Street, has bas reliefs by Lee Lawrie. This side faces 5th Street. The reliefs and figures are by Lee Lawrie. The following is a description from the "Hand Book of the Central Building Los Angeles Public Library", published in 1927, p. 19: "On the north front the principal decoration is the arms of Los Angeles, but on either side of the entrance are here again two images, in this instance symbolizing the great literary powers of the mind, Reason and Imagination, or the Philosopher and the Poet. High above, on the cornice is an inscription taken from Richard de Bury's aspostrophe to books in the Philobiblion...'Books alone are liberal and free; they give to all who ask; they emancipate all who serve them faithfully.'"




To: Public Art in the Los Angeles Public Library and the Maguire Gardens