Artist in the Archives: Archie Tunturi

This post is by Archives Assistant John Esh.

A researcher and professor at Oregon Health & Science University, Dr. Archie R. Tunturi specialized in research on the brain and nervous system. His goal was to enable people with broken spinal cords to regain the use of their affected limbs. A prolific writer for various medical publications and presenter at multiple medical conferences, as well as an expert in building acoustics, having consulted on over 50 churches and buildings in the Pacific Northwest, it should come as no surprise that Archie was also a skilled artist.

While processing the papers of Dr. Reid Sam Connell, I came across several sketchbooks full of drawings and watercolors. At first, thinking these were the work of Dr. Connell himself, I set them aside for later perusal. Upon closer inspection though, I espied Dr. Tunturi’s signature. Dr. Connell worked with Tunturi in the Anatomy department here at OHSU and presumably he inherited these sketchbooks after Dr. Tunturi’s passing in 1991.

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Various anatomical and medically-related sketches comprise a large part of these artistic endeavors, but the books also contain a multitude of figure sketches and landscape watercolors from life. Pastoral scenes, mountains, woodland cabins, and industrial areas and train yards along the river make up the bulk of the paintings. A small collection of woodblock prints, including appearances of Mary Magdalene and Jesus, which were used for Christmas cards over the years, are collected within the sketchbooks as well.

My favorite, though, is a series of small sketches in the second book. These drawings appear to be of a man in thought, a small embryo floating above his head. If one looks closely, you can see an uncanny resemblance to the late Dr. Tunturi in the man’s face, his passions reflected in even his leisurely pastimes.