The son of Truman Howe Bartlett, a noted art critic and sculptor, Paul Wayland Bartlett commenced his artistic studies in Paris at the age of 15, and by the age of 22 had won a medal at the Paris Salon. His success and reputation grew so rapidly that at the age of only 29, he was made a knight of the French Legion of Honor. His success abroad led to several major commissions in the United States, the most significant of which is the pediment he modeled for the House of Representatives at the U.S. Capitol known as The Apotheosis of Democracy (1908-1916).
Bartlett is known not only as sculptor of the human figure, but also as an animalier, an artist specializing in the realistic depiction of animals. This work, portraying a pair of sleeping lion cubs, was exhibited in Paris in 1895. It is part of a group of five sculptures by Bartlett given to the Birmingham Museum of Art in 1958 by the artist’s stepdaughter, Caroline Peter.