American Portraits 1880–1915

May 14 – August 30, 2015

The exhibition American Portraits 1880–1915 showcases selected works by American artists from the Frye Collections. These portraits exhibit links to developments in German painting during the same period, from symbolism and realism to the beginnings of abstraction. The exhibition celebrates the contributions American artists made to these major movements in the United States and abroad, and demonstrates the key role they played as purveyors of artistic ideas across the Atlantic Ocean.

The profound impact of Europe, especially France, on American intellectuals, writers, and artists in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries has been addressed on numerous occasions in exhibitions and academic volumes. Less often examined, but equally important, were America’s close ties to Germany, where American artists sought inspiration and a place to study, as well as the opportunity to exhibit their work and build a career. In the mid-nineteenth century many esteemed American artists, such as John White Alexander, William Merritt Chase, and George Luks, studied at German art academies.

Beginning in 1875, a number of American artists, including Chase and Frank Duveneck, visited and worked in the village of Polling in Bavaria. Duveneck established art schools in Munich and Polling, and his students, who included John White Alexander and John Twatchman, became known as “Duveneck's Boys.”

In 1892, artists in Munich broke from the mainstream artist association and formed the Munich Secession. Artists in Berlin and Vienna soon followed suit, forming their own Secessions. The prestige of being invited to join the Secessions, or exhibit with them, was accorded to a select few American artists. William Merritt Chase was, however, a corresponding member of the Munich Secession, and James Abbott McNeil Whistler, a corresponding member of the Vienna Secession, also exhibited at the Munich Secession.

American Portraits 1880–1915 is organized by the Frye Art Museum. The exhibition is funded by the Frye Foundation with the generous support of Frye Art Museum members and donors. Seasonal support is provided by Seattle Office of Arts & Culture and ArtsFund.

Charles Sprague Pearce. Sainte Genevieve, 1887. Oil on canvas. 82 x 66 in. Anonymous Lender, IL.2011.011. Photo: Spike Mafford.
Robert Henri. The Stoker, 1910. Oil on canvas. 24 1/4 x 20 1/4 in. Frye Art Museum. 1958.009.
John Singer Sargent. Mrs. Frederick William Roller, 1895. Oil on canvas. 88 1/4 x 44 5/8 in. Frye Art Museum, 1981.014.
George Benjamin Luks. Danty, ca. 1915. Oil on canvas. 42 1/4 x 24 in. Frye Art Museum, 1982.015. Photo: Spike Mafford.