Ida Kay Greathouse: A Tribute

June 19 – September 19, 2010

In this exhibition the Frye Art Museum honors one of the most influential directors in its history: Ida Kay Greathouse, who turns 105 this year. The Frye’s longest-serving director, Mrs. Greathouse led the Museum from 1966 until her retirement in 1993.

Mrs. Greathouse’s husband, Walser, was the Museum’s first director and the executor of Charles Frye’s estate. During his tenure (1952–1966) Walser made astute acquisitions, supplementing the Founding Collection of late-nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century European paintings—predominantly from Germany—with artworks by important American artists from the same time period. His purchases showcased the work of a number of American artists who had received their training in Germany and provided the Museum with key examples of American Impressionism and Modernism.

Mrs. Greathouse, who took the Frye’s helm following Walser’s death in 1966, continued her husband’s focus on American art, complementing her first acquisition—William Harnett’s A Wooden Basket of Catawba Grapes—with works by William Merritt Chase, Willard L. Metcalf, Thomas Moran, John Singer Sargent, Everett Shinn, and N. C. and Andrew Wyeth, among others. She also enhanced the Founding Collection’s French paintings with impressionist works by Berthe Morisot, Camille Pissarro, Pierre-August Renoir, and Alfred Sisley.

Under Mrs. Greathouse’s leadership, the Frye also moved into new collecting directions, acquiring significant paintings by early-twentieth-century Russian-trained émigrés such as Nicolai Fechin and Sergei Bongart and twentieth-century Alaskan landscapes by Ted Lambert, Sydney Laurence, Fred Machetanz, and Eustace Ziegler.

Providing the first overview of her collecting accomplishments, this exhibition features important acquisitions made over the nearly three decades Mrs. Greathouse led the Frye. Although including a number of French paintings, the exhibition focuses primarily on American artworks, demonstrating the key role played by Mrs. Greathouse in moving the Museum from its initial mandate to showcase European art to becoming an active exhibitor of American art.

Ida Kay Greathouse: A Tribute is organized by the Frye Art Museum and funded by the Frye Foundation with the generous support of Frye Art Museum members and donors. The exhibition is curated by Director Jo-Anne Birnie Danzker. Collection Research: Jayme Yahr. Collection Management: Donna Kovalenko.

Image Credits:
John Singer Sargent. Mrs. Frederick William Roller (detail), 1895. Oil on canvas. 88 ¼ x 44 1/16 in. Frye Art Museum, 1981.014.
Installation view, Ida Kay Greathouse: A Tribute, Frye Art Museum, 2010. Photo: © Adam Weintraub.
Installation view, Ida Kay Greathouse: A Tribute, Frye Art Museum, 2010. Photo: © Adam Weintraub.
Installation views, Ida Kay Greathouse: A Tribute and Northern Latitudes: The Frye and Alaska, Frye Art Museum, 2010. Photo: © Adam Weintraub.
Ida Kay Greathouse with John Singer Sargent’s Mrs. Frederick William Roller at the Frye’s 30th anniversary celebration, 1982. Photo: Herb Franklin.
John Singer Sargent. Mrs. Frederick William Roller, 1895. Oil on canvas. 88 ¼ x 44 1/16 in. Frye Art Museum, 1981.014.

“She is pretty and feminine with a man’s executive mind. She can hire—or fire—a staff, buy and sell property, reorganize a corporation. She can also put in a garden, sew a fine seam and bid for the right paintings at an auction.”
Dorothy Brant Brazier,
"Widow Took Husband's Place,"
The Seattle Times
May 12, 1968