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Seattle Art Museum (SAM)

Canoe-shaped bowl with quail topknots

Photo: Elizabeth Mann

Canoe-shaped bowl with quail topknots

early 20th century

Basketry is a highly developed art form among tribes of the American West, as weavers made use of a wide variety of locally available materials and more scarce materials acquired through trade. Traditional knowledge about materials, dyes, techniques, and designs were passed down from generation to generation. Baskets were an integral part of life: made in many shapes and sizes for daily use or crafted specially for ceremonies and as gifts.

Robert Shields may have been known as “one of the Grand Old Men in Northwest architecture” (Pacific Northwest Magazine), but it is his enduring passion for art that leaves a lasting legacy at SAM. When Mr Shields passed away in the summer of 2012, he left his entire estate to the Seattle Art Museum, its value to be used in support of the Asian art program.

One of the foremost Northwest architects of the mid-20th century, Mr Shields graduated from the University of Washington with an architecture degree in 1941. After serving in the Navy in WWII, he returned to Seattle and founded the architecture firm Tucker, Shields and Terry in 1946. Over the course of the next 30 years he established a reputation as one of the foremost Northwest architects as he designed homes, commercial spaces, the KIRO-TV headquarters, and Canlis restaurant.

A champion of Northwest art and artists (he counted Zoe Dusanne, Don Foster, Morris Graves, and Kenneth Callahan among his friends), Mr Shields was also passionate about Asian and Native American art, as well as European decorative arts; and he collected in all of these areas. He was a member of the museum’s Asian Art Council, the Seattle Clay Club, and the Puget Sound Bonsai Society. In honor of the opening of SAM Downtown in 1991, he donated several Japanese objects and a Morris Graves painting to the collection.

Willow, sedge root, bracken fern root, quail feathers
1 3/4 × 6 1/4 × 2 1/4in. (4.4 × 15.9 × 5.7cm)
Gift of the Estate of Robert M. Shields
Photo: Elizabeth Mann
Not currently on view

Seattle Art Museum acknowledges that we are on the traditional homelands of the Duwamish and the customary territories of the Suquamish and Muckleshoot Peoples. As a cultural and educational institution, we honor our ongoing connection to these communities past, present, and future. We also acknowledge the urban Native peoples from many Nations who call Seattle their home.

Learn more about Equity at SAM