Frye Art Museum


Frye Founding Collection

Comprising 232 paintings, the Frye Founding Collection was established by two of Seattle’s earliest patrons of the arts, Charles and Emma Frye. The collection, which celebrates primarily late-nineteenth and early-twentieth-century German art, was formed in the first part of the twentieth century, when a number of influential American collectors and museum curators sought to establish close cultural ties between Germany and America.

Among the many highlights of the Founding Collection is one of the icons of European Symbolism, Sin by Franz von Stuck, a founding member of the influential artists’ association, the Munich Secession. Indeed, with the exception of a number of fine French paintings, the collection maintains a careful balance between important works by the generation of artists belonging to the Künstlergenossenschaft (Franz von Defregger, Friedrich August von Kaulbach, Wilhelm Leibl, and Franz von Lenbach) and exemplary works by the generation of young painters who founded the Munich Secession (Ludwig Dill, Hugo von Habermann, Otto Hierl-Deronco, Stuck, Fritz von Uhde, and Heinrich von Zügel). Members of the Munich Secession, corresponding members such as Max Slevogt and Hans Thoma, as well as artists such as Gabriel von Max who bridged both generations, are also represented in the collection.

In its content and structure, the Founding Collection bears similarities to other collections of German art established around the same time, most notably those belonging to American art collector and merchant Hugo Reisinger and New York Philharmonic Orchestra conductor Josef Stránský. Several important works in the Frye Collection were originally owned by either Reisinger or Stránský, or by both. In addition, the Frye Collection includes many of those artists whose paintings appeared in important German art exhibitions at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Albright Art Gallery in Buffalo, and the Art Institute of Chicago between 1906 and 1909.

Frye Art Museum Collection

In addition to the Frye Founding Collection, the Museum owns an extensive collection of artworks purchased or gifted to the Museum since its opening in 1952. The first director of the Museum, Walser Sly Greathouse, purchased nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century American artworks that complemented the Founding Collection. Some of the American artists represented in the collection, including Albert Bierstadt, William Merritt Chase, Frank Duveneck, Geri Melchers, and John H. Twachtman, had close artistic and intellectual ties to Europe, particularly to Germany.

Please download an essay by Frye Director Jo-Anne Birnie Danzker (PDF) for more information on the Frye Founding Collection and its relationship to other American collections of German art in the first half of the twentieth century.

Above Images (L-R):
Franz von Stuck. Sin (detail), c. 1908. Syntonos on canvas. 34 7/8 x 21 5/8 inches. Charles and Emma Frye Collection.
Dániel Somogyi. View of Königssee, 1878. Oil on fabric. 46 5/8 x 59 3/16 inches. Charles and Emma Frye Collection.
Gabriel von Max. The Christian Martyr (detail), 1867. Oil on paper affixed to paper. 48 x 36 3/4 inches. Charles and Emma Frye Collection.
Mihály de Munkácsy. The Prisoner, 1871–73. Oil on panel. 31 x 39.5 inches. Charles and Emma Frye Collection.