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Tsutakawa Sculpture (#3)

Also known as: “Heaven, Man and Earth”

George Tsutakawa was born in Seattle in 1910 and attended the University of Washington, earning both Bachelor of Fine Arts and Master of Fine Arts degrees. He served in the United States Army during World War II. He began teaching at the University of Washington in 1947, launching a distinguished career as Professor of Art until 1976. After experimentation with abstract forms in oil painting and wood sculpture, Tsutakawa discovered the sculptural concept Obos, rock compositions placed by pilgrims at Himalayan mountain passes. In 1959, his first bronze fountain sculpture at the Seattle Public Library echoed the Obos concept and led to the design and installation of more than 75 public fountain sculptures in the United States, Canada and Japan. Tsutakawa began to paint with Japanese sumi ink in the 1960s, resulting in countless depictions of Obos forms and landscapes of the Pacific Northwest and Puget Sound sea life. Tsutakawa died in 1997 in Seattle.

Tsutakawa has had a major impact on public art in Washington State. His first fountain was created in 1958 for the new Seattle Public Library, on invitation from the architects Bindon & Wright and was one of the first public art commissions the city ever awarded. The Fountain of Wisdom was re-installed in 2006 when architect Rem Koolhaas designed a new library. This artwork is a historic benchmark for public art projects in the region. After Tsutakawa’s first fountain, over two dozen more were installed in Washington State, four of which are located on college campuses including Seattle University, Seattle Central Community College, University of Washington and Whitman College in Walla Walla. Tsutakawa’s fountains provide places for study, rest and contemplation and add visual contrasts to the natural environment.

The Bronze Sculpture located near the southeast corner of Maynard Avenue South and South Jackson Street was created by Tsutakawa in 1978. With its rising form and dense interplay of positive and negative space, it too adds dramatic visual contrasts to the surrounding environment.

Excerpted from “George Tsutakawa: Pacific Northwest Fountains” brochure, Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience.


Bronze Sculpture by George Tsutakawa, view looking south on Maynard Avenue.

Alabastro Photography. Courtesy of Wing Luke Museum.

Bronze Sculpture by George Tsutakawa, view looking north towards Jackson Street.

Alabastro Photography. Courtesy of Wing Luke Museum.