In deference to the many and varied goings on in our world, I present you “Atlas Holding the World”. This Art Deco statue can be found in New York City in front of Rockefeller Center. Cast in 1936 and weighing 2 tons, it is collaboration of Lee Lawrie, who designed the statue, and Rene Chambellan, who orchestrated the casting.
In Greek mythology, Atlas was a Titan, half man and half god. After the Titans’ defeat in a war against the gods, he was sentenced to spend eternity carrying our world on his shoulders.
In modern popular culture, Atlas is used as something of a supporting character in Ayn Rand’s novel Atlas Shrugged. The concept at play was what would happen if Atlas simply decided that he had had enough and stopped holding up the world? In practical terms, it was a question of what would happen if our best, brightest and most energetic decided that they had had enough and stopped contributing to society. The concept at play was that they were simply delaying the inevitable, and that by withholding their talents they would hasten the inevitable breakdown and reconstruction of society.
Lee Lawrie was an architectural sculptor (one who uses the techniques of sculpture and architecture together when designing a building), born in Germany and immigrated to the US as a young child. As a teenager he worked with many sculptors who designed the buildings for the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893. He received a Bachelor’s of Fine arts from Yale and taught at Yale and Harvard. His most famous work is Atlas, a purely sculptural work.
Rene Paul Chambellan is another American architectural sculptor. He was educated in New York and Paris and was a noted Art Deco practitioner. Aside from Atlas, he created works for the gardens and fountains at Rockerfeller Center and at Radio City Music Hall.