Saturday, February 12, 2011

Tête-à-tête + Picturing a Passion at the Frye Art Museum

Salon-style presentation, Tête-à-tête Exhibit at the Frye Museum Salon-style presentation, Tête-à-tête Exhibit at the Frye Museum 

Seattle patrons of the arts Charles Frye (1858 – 1940) and his wife Emma Frye ( – 1934) are who we have to thank for today’s Frye Art Museum which was built in 1952 to house their art collection. The Fryes made their fortune in the meat-packing business which boomed during the Klondike Gold Rush. 

From their first painting purchased in 1893 to the death of Emma, the couple collected more than 230 works. Most of the work is from the Munich School, reflecting their German background and interest in European realism. One hundred fifty of those paintings are on display at the Frye from February 6, 2010 – January 15, 2012. 

In the exhibit Tête-à-tête, the curators have recreated 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.” The paintings are hung salon-style, in a dense mass of paintings. Thematically, they all mesh (to our modern, distant eye) and feature either artists from the Munich Secession or artists from the preceding Artists’ Association, the Munich Künstlergenossenschaft. 

In the adjoining exhibit, Picturing a Passion, you get a little background on the Fryes and a view of what their collection looked like through historical photographs of their art collection as it was presented in their home and offices. What we didn’t know was that in 1943, a B-29 bomber crashed into the Frye headquarters. Thirty-two people and a number of animals were killed. As well, art work displayed at the headquarters and art records were lost. For more information on the history of this free(!) museum, see

Charles and Emma Frye portraits at the Frye Art Museum
Charles and Emma Frye portraits at the Frye Art Museum

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