Carl Milles was arguably Sweden’s most prominent sculptor in the 20th century. “The Hand of God” was one of Milles’ last works before his death. Originally, Milles created it to honor the Swedish innovator and entrepreneur C. E. Johansson who revolutionized precision measuring of auto and other industrial parts which made the assembly line possible, and the original still stands in Johansson’s hometown of Eskilstuna.
Throughout the 1930s Milles worked at Cranbrook Academy of Art near Detroit. Thanks to a contribution from the United Auto Workers “The Hand of God” was recast and donated to the city of Detroit in honor of Frank Murphy, Michigan Governor and US Supreme Court Associate Justice. It now stands outside the Frank Murphy Hall of Justice in Detroit.
Carl Milles (1875, Lagga – 1955) was a Swedish sculptor, best known for his fountains. He was married to artist Olga Milles and brother to Ruth Milles and half brother to the architect Evert Milles. Carl Milles sculpted the Poseidon statue in Gothenburg, the Gustaf Vasa statue at the Nordiska museet, the Orfeus group outside the Stockholm Concert Hall and the Folke Filbyter sculpture in Linköping. The latter was featured on a stamp issued in 1975, commemorating the fact that he would have turned a hundred years old that year.
Milles was born Carl Wilhelm Andersson, son of lieutenant Emil "Mille" Andersson and his wife Walborg Tisell, (June 23, 1875–September 19, 1955) outside Uppsala in 1875. In 1897 he made what he thought would be a temporary stop in Paris on his way to Chile, where he was due to manage a school of gymnastics. However, he remained in Paris, where he studied art, working in Auguste Rodin's studio and slowly gaining recognition as a sculptor. In 1904 he and Olga moved to Munich.
In 1931, American publisher George Gough Booth brought Milles to Cranbrook Educational Community, in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, to serve as his sculptor in residence. Part of Booth's arrangement with his principal artists was that they were expected to create major commissions outside the Cranbrook environment. By the time Milles left America for the last time over twenty years later he had dotted the American landscape with his works.
Milles and his wife returned to Sweden in 1951, and lived in Millesgården every summer until Milles's death in 1955. They spent winters in Rome, where the American Academy had supplied them with a studio. Milles and his wife, Olga, who died in 1967 in Graz, Austria, are buried in a small stone chapel, designed by Milles, at Millesgården. Because Swedish law requires burial on sacred ground, it took the assistance of the then reigning Gustaf VI Adolf to allow this resting place. The king, a friend of Milles's and a keen gardener, had helped plant a garden at the site.