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Exhibitions Continue Exploration into Frye Collection

SEATTLE, WA.- Following exhibitions exploring the Munich Secession and works by American artists who traveled to Germany, the Frye provides further opportunity to experience the Museum’s collection with two exhibitions featuring favorite paintings bought by founders Charles and Emma Frye and a focus on works by a single artist. Bringing Munich Home: Selections from the Frye Founding Collection and Over Julia’s Dead Body: Gabriel von Max’s Mystics and Martyrs open May 2 in the Frye’s Viewpoints Galleries.

Featuring key selections from the Frye Founding Collection, Bringing Munich Home: Selections from the Frye Founding Collection demonstrates the significant role the city of Munich and its artists played in the lives of Seattle collectors Charles and Emma Frye. Like many collectors of their time, the Fryes, Americans of German descent, used art to link their European pasts to their American present. By the time the Fryes developed their passion for art, Munich had long been famous as a “city of art,” attracting artists and art lovers from around the globe to its art museums and international art exhibitions. For a period of almost three decades between 1870 and 1900, Munich was the dominant art center of the German States, briefly rivaling even Paris as the European capital of visual art.

Research reveals that the Fryes made as many as six trips to Munich between the years 1914 and 1925 for extended stays during which the couple looked together at art, met artists, and purchased paintings. As a result, the core of the Fryes’ collection comprises paintings by two generations of German artists who were involved in distinct exhibiting organizations: the Künstlergenossenshaft and the Munich Secession. Bringing Munich Home features artwork by artists involved in both of these associations.

Established in 1868, the Künstlergenossenshaft mounted exhibitions of contemporary German and international art, as well as historical artworks. The organization’s extremely democratic and lenient policies resulted in exhibitions that contained thousands of paintings. In 1892, discouraged by what they perceived as the Künstlergenossenshaft’s forsaking of quality for fairness, a group of artists founded the rival exhibiting group that became known as the Munich Secession. Radically altering exhibition strategies and stressing excellence and diversity in artistic practice, the Secession promoted stylistic experimentation and individualism.

Presented during Bringing Munich Home, Over Julia’s Dead Body: Gabriel von Max’s Mystics and Martyrs offers an in depth look at one of the artists collected by Charles and Emma Frye: Gabriel von Max, who was best known for his paintings of beautiful, dead women.

Max trained for several years in Prague before completing his artistic studies in Munich around 1867. He established his own atelier there and later taught history painting at the Munich Academy. Max’s dark palette and interests in spirituality, hypnotism, somnambulism, and parapsychological phenomena influenced many late-nineteenth century German artists.

Showcasing the Max paintings in the Frye Collections, Over Julia’s Dead Body includes The Christian Martyr (1867), a favorite painting of Frye visitors. The exhibition features the recording of a contemporary response to this historical painting: an original short story by Seattle writer Lesley Hazleton.

Hazleton’s psychologically-charged story was commissioned by the Frye for Looking Together: Writers on Art, a book published by the Frye and University of Washington Press, in which writers have created works of fiction or poems based on works of art from the Frye’s Collections or from temporary exhibitions hosted at the Museum.

Hazleton lived in Jerusalem for thirteen years and has written on Middle East politics for the New York Times, Esquire, Vanity Fair, The Nation, and many other publications. Her award-winning books include Mary: a Flesh-and-Blood Biography of the Virgin Mother (Bloomsbury, 2004) and Jezebel: the Untold Story of the Bible’s Harlot Queen (Doubleday, 2007). Hazleton’s After the Prophet: The Epic Story of the Shia-Sunni Split in Islam is due out from Doubleday in fall 2009. British-born, Hazleton lives and writes on a houseboat in Seattle, her home since 1992.

Both new exhibitions follow The Munich Secession and America, in which the Frye’s Founding Collection was exhibited with significant loans from German museums and private collections. Bringing Munich Home and Over Julia’s Dead Body continue the Frye Art Museum’s commitment to enhancing appreciation of our Founding Collection and honoring and extending Charles and Emma Frye’s legacies.

Bringing Munich Home: Selections from the Frye Founding Collection is cocurated by Robin Held, chief curator and director of exhibitions and collections; Donna Kovalenko, curator of collections; and Jayme Yahr, curatorial intern.

Over Julia’s Dead Body: Gabriel von Max’s Mystics and Martyrs is curated by Robin Held, chief curator and director of exhibitions and collections.

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