New Exhibition Celebrates Frye Art Museum Founding Collection

Reflecting its continuing commitment to honor the legacy of Charles and Emma Frye, the Frye Art Museum announced a new exhibition “Tête-à-tête” that opens February 6, 2010.

“Tête-à-tête” features nearly one hundred fifty paintings from the Frye Founding Collection, recreating the sumptuous viewing experience enjoyed by visitors to the art gallery in Charles and Emma Frye’s Seattle home in the early decades of the twentieth century. Hung floor-to-ceiling in the Museum’s largest gallery, the paintings, as well as a rare circa 1880 Oriental carpet, potted silk palms, and the Frye’s iconic 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.

The New York Times noted the close ties between Secessionist and Künstlergenossenschaft artists in January 1909, 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.

“Tête-à-tête” juxtaposes paintings by Künstlergenossenschaft masters such as Franz von Lenbach, who enjoyed fame and recognition in nineteenth-century America, with work by prominent Secessionists, including Franz von Stuck and Gabriel von Max.

One of the key distinctions between exhibitions organized by the Munich Secession and the Munich Künstlergenossenschaft was in their different styles of presenting art works. The Munich Secessionists had introduced for the first time the “modern hang” in their inaugural exhibition in 1893 in a purpose-built gallery with light colored walls stripped of ornate decoration. As the director of the Albright Art Gallery in Buffalo noted in 1906, paintings were hung in a single row “with liberal space between them.” The general effect, he noted,” surpasses anything of the kind which the writer hitherto has seen.”

Exhibitions organized by the Künstlergenossenschaft, on the other hand, were noted for the overwhelming number of art works on display, up to two thousand paintings in a single exhibition, that were hung “salon-style”, from floor to ceiling. Presented in Munich’s Glaspalast (Glass Palace) the exhibitions of the Künstlergenossenschaft included beer gardens, a greenhouse with exotic plants as well as musical offerings from chamber orchestras, military bands and five hundred voice choirs.

“Tête-à-tête” recalls the sheer abundance and visual splendor of the exhibitions of the Künstlergenossenschaft as well those in the Frye’s home on Seattle’s First Hill nearly a century ago.

A companion exhibition to The Munich Secession and America (January 23–April 12, 2009), “Tête-à-tête” will be on view through January 2, 1011. Its title recalls the experience of looking at art with a friend or loved one and the shared memories that result from those intimate moments.

Organized by the Frye Art Museum, “Tête-à-tête” was initiated by Frye Director Jo-Anne Birnie Danzker. Exhibition Designer: Shane Montgomery. Collections Manager: Donna Kovalenko.

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