Favorites: The Frye Founding Collection
September 25, 2012 – January 13, 2013
Continuing our celebration of the Frye Art Museum’s 60th anniversary, we are presenting Favorites: The Frye Founding Collection, a selection of the paintings that our visitors most frequently request be on view. In this exhibition, key works from Munich Secession artists Franz von Stuck, Gabriel von Max, and Franz von Lenbach join beloved canvases by Alexander Koester, Adolf Schreyer, and William-Adolphe Bouguereau. In presenting two rarely shown works from the Founding Collection by Nikolai Dubovskoi and Edmund Steppes, we underscore our commitment to scholarship and to introducing potential new favorites for generations to come.
Charles and Emma Frye developed their passion for art at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893, an experience that would have a great influence on the painterly subjects and artists the young couple would collect over the next four decades. By 1909, the Fryes had begun acquiring works. Three German pictures in the Exposition were reputedly in Charles Frye’s possession in 1930, including Dutch Woman and Child by Albert Neuhuys, shown here. Paintings the couple later purchased bear close similarities to paintings by artists of the Munich Künstlergenossenschaft (Artists’ Association) that were included in the Exposition, but that interest soon gave way to a penchant for the more experimental canvases of artists associated with the Munich Secession. The Secessionists, many shown here, were distinguished by their insistence on extreme individualism and stylistic diversity.
In 1915, Charles Frye approached the Seattle Fine Arts Society with his vision of establishing a museum in Volunteer Park. Society members declined to support the project. Parallel to these efforts to initiate what would have been Seattle’s first public art museum, Charles and Emma Frye embarked on the construction of their own private art gallery, which adjoined their residence on Seattle’s First Hill. The Frye Gallery became an important part of the social and philanthropic life of the city and hosted lectures, charity events, and tours.
Emma Frye passed away in 1934, Charles Frye in 1940. In their wills, the Fryes bequeathed their collection to the Seattle Art Museum in Volunteer Park. When the gift was declined, Walser Greathouse, the executor of Charles Frye’s estate and the Frye Art Museum’s first director, ensured that the conditions of the will were fulfilled and found an alternative site on First Hill, within a block of the Fryes’ home and their beloved private gallery. The Frye Art Museum opened its doors on February 8, 1952, honoring to this day the stipulation in the will that access to the Founding Collection always be free.