George Fite Waters studied sculpture under Auguste Rodin in Paris. Portland’s The President is his most impressive, surviving, public artwork.

Cast from wax in bronze probably in 1924 or 1925 at the C. Valsuani foundry, bought from Waters in Paris, shipped in 1926 and donated to Portland in 1928 by psychatrist and progressive booster Henry Waldo Coe and unveiled in 1928, this looming bronze figure has been destination of a thousand rendevouz.

(Coe also made gifts of the Joan of Arc at 29th and Glisan, the Roosevelt in from of the Portland Art Museum, and the George Washington on NE Sandy Blvd – all great examples of post-war euro expat sculpture, and great treasures of Portland.)

A strange caveat to the deal. Waters sold The President , an original, with an agreement it may never be duplicated.

Lincoln High School students traditionally have cared for the sculpture. There’s a scale duplicate in white plaster on a little wheeled pedestal at Lincoln. Go piracy!

Waters made a living translating – best known perhaps is Italian Renaissance Architecture by Georges Gromort, pub. in 1922, and selling etchings.

From the NY Times – August 1923

George Fite-Waters, originally an American who studied here and later abroad, has received gratifying attention from the French critics. He is exhibiting in the Salon se Artists Francaises several busts in bronze. In the opinion of the Revue du Vral et du Beau his technique is strong and vibratory, full of emotion and character. The portraits of Fernand Anseau, tenor of the Opera, and of the small boy Jack Wittmore are expressive and living. Mlle. X, is modeled with supple charm and Eliner is an exquisite bas-relief of a little girl in profile, out of doors, near some iris. The varied ways he expresses himself proves with what sensitiveness Fite-Waters adapts technique to subject.

He has the great good fortune of being the last pupil of Rodin. His work is much inspired by the manner of the master. After the war he worked in London and exhibited there with many of the best societies. He traveled for a year in Italy and then returned to Paris.

Fite-Waters’s great interest is portraiture. Here he excels. Not only does he reproduce the exterior forms, but he translates personalities. Among his portraits of celebrities are those of the composer Giacomo Puccini, James K. Hackett, the American actor, playing Shakespeare in Paris, Elsie Janis, Sacha Guitry, Mme. Melba and the Russian tenor, Wladimir Rosing.

From the NY Times – Feb. 1927


Art Critics and Reporters See Heroic Figure by Waters for Portland, Ore.

Paris – Feb. 12 (1927) – Art critics and members of the press at a private gathering held in the foundry had an opportunity to view the statue of Abraham Lincoln, which will be unveiled in Portland, Ore., in April.

A gift to that city by Dr. Henry Waldo Coe, the statue is the work of an American sculpture, George Fite Waters, who is already well known for his portrait busts, which include the heads of President Cosgrave of Ireland and other notables. He is a native of San Francisco and his parents are from Maryland.

The statue is monumental in proportions, ten feet high, showing Lincoln in the familiar frock coat and characteristic attitude, with head inclined and one leg well forward, giving an impression of great energy and restrained power. The cast in bronze at the famous foundry of Claude Valsuani, weighs nearly on ton.

Mr. Waters made every effort to achieve historic accuracy as well as artistic perfection and made much painstaking research of contemporary documents. He used two death masks for models. The coat, which dates from the period, obtained in Washington D.C., was worn as a sitting by a young English accountant in Paris, who by a curious coincidence possesses the identical body measurements of Abraham Lincoln.


Interesting – Waters’ other surviving public sculpture is of John Brown, which stands guard at the John Brown Memorial Park in Osawatomie, Kansas. Where the hell is that?


Mitch takes us all on a excellent tour of downtown Portland. Be patient. He took pictures and they take time to download regardless of your bandwidth. (If you’re considering vacationing in Portland, this page could save you serious money. Look at this and then go to Vancouver BC to get something to eat.)