“So my advice is to grab the menu (one page per wall), narrow down your selection, and visit several times this year (considering the free admission).”
Brian Miller, Seattle Weekly
February 6, 2010 – January 8, 2012
Tête-à-tête features one hundred fifty paintings from the Frye Art Museum’s Founding Collection, recreating the sumptuous viewing experience enjoyed by visitors to the art gallery in Charles and Emma Frye’s Seattle home in the first decades of the twentieth century. Hung floor to ceiling, the paintings—as well as an Oriental carpet, a potted silk palm, and gossip chairs—capture the atmosphere of the Fryes’ salon-style exhibitions, which showcased the artists of the renowned Munich Secession and the “stars” of the preceding Artists’ Association, the Munich Künstlergenossenschaft.
Tête-à-tête combines paintings from both generations of artists. Works by Künstlergenossenschaft masters such as Franz von Lenbach, who enjoyed fame and recognition in nineteenth-century America, hang alongside paintings by prominent Secessionists, including Franz von Stuck and Gabriel von Max. In January 1909, the New York Times noted the close ties between Secessionist and Künstlergenossenschaft artists when a “magnificent” exhibition of German art opened in a new wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art: “It is easy to see how the truly great masters among the old had many of the virtues of the young, and how finely the best art of the different generations holds together when brought into close juxtaposition.”
However, there were also important distinctions between the artists of the Secession and the Künstlergenossenschaft, including different styles of presenting artworks. The Secession’s 1893 inaugural exhibition took place in specially designed galleries with light colored walls stripped of ornate decoration. Paintings were hung sparely and installed in single rows. The appearance of the 1906 Secession exhibition so impressed Charles M. Kurtz, director of Buffalo’s Albright Art Gallery, that he wrote, “…The general effect of the Secession galleries this year surpasses anything of the kind which the writer hitherto has seen.”
In contrast, Künstlergenossenschaft exhibitions displayed an overwhelming number of artworks; a single exhibition could contain up to two thousand paintings, which the artists installed salon-style. Often presented at Munich’s Glaspalast (Glass Palace), these exhibitions included beer gardens, a greenhouse with exotic plants, and musical offerings from chamber orchestras, military bands, and five hundred-voice choirs.
Tête-à-tête recalls the abundance and visual splendor of the Künstlergenossenschaft’s salon-style exhibitions and those in the Fryes’ home on Seattle’s First Hill almost a century ago.