SAM Art: Small art, big story

Sometimes, collecting small has a big result.

In 1919, following his service in WWI, Richard E. Fuller traveled to “the Orient” with his parents, sister, and brother. Their trip took them from Vancouver, BC, to China, Japan, Korea, Indonesia, Burma, and India. However, the latter part of the trip nearly did not happen, as Fuller fell ill with appendicitis while in Nikko, Japan. His brother, Dr. Duncan Fuller, ultimately performed emergency surgery, with their father, Dr. Eugene Fuller, assisting. While Richard Fuller convalesced, his family explored the Nikko area, and began collecting small figures known as netsukes.

Years later, when Richard Fuller and his mother Margaret founded the Seattle Art Museum, they donated this large group of small objects to the museum’s collection. These small figures remain part of the museum’s holdings to this day, a collection for which SAM is famous around the world. The Duncan MacTavish Fuller Memorial Collection of netsukes is named in memory of Richard’s brother, and in honor of the unexpected turn of events in 1919 Japan.

Poetess Ono-no-komachi in her old age, sitting on a log, 18th-19th century, Japanese, ivory, 1 1/2 x 2 7/8 x 7/8 in., Duncan MacTavish Fuller Memorial Collection, 33.352. Currently on view in the Seattle Asian Art Museum, Volunteer Park.