Picturing a Passion presents historical photographs of the Frye Founding Collection of late-19th- and early-20th-century paintings as it was displayed in the Seattle home of Charles Frye (18581940) and his wife Emma (18601934). The exhibition of twenty-three black-and-white photographs is on view Jan. 15March 6. 2011.
founders Charles and Emma Frye moved from an Iowa farming community to Seattle in 1888, and soon established meatpacking, cattle ranching and agricultural businesses throughout the Pacific Northwest and Alaska.
The couple may have been inspired to collect art after attending the 1893 World Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Sixteen years later, they lent one of their paintings, Leon Perraults Marguerite, to Seattles Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition.
During their first trip to Europe in the early summer of 1914, the Fryes acquired German, Dutch and a few French canvases. They returned to the Continent four times in the next 11 years, and deepened their enthusiasm for art through friendships with American artists including Henry Raschen (18541937) and Eustace Ziegler (18811969).
The Fryes housed their burgeoning collection in their Seattle home at 722 Ninth Ave. In 1914, the couple added a gallery annex to their home, in which they hung paintings salon style, from floor to ceiling. They used curtains to cover a number of works, dramatically revealing the hidden paintings to dinner guests while piping music into the gallery; operas and sonatas swirled around the landscapes and portraits they cherished.
The Fryes also installed a number of artworks in their business offices, an arrangement that had tragic consequences in 1943, when a B-29 Superfortress bomber, under secret development at Boeing, crashed into Frye headquarters. Thirty-two people were killed, the resulting fire severely damaged the plant and an unknown number of paintings were destroyed. Most of the Frye business files, including archival records of the art collection, were also lost.
After Charles and Emma Frye died, their collection, totaling 232 works, was gifted to the people of Seattle in perpetuity and today forms a living legacy as the Founding Collection of the Frye Art Museum, which opened in 1952.