Carl Otto Czeschka, illustrations in Die Nibelungen by Franz Keim, circa 1908

The Frye Art Museum’s permanent collection of paintings is undoubtedly grand, but it has always felt like a little something (something material, perhaps?) was missing from the shows. At 1900: Adornment for the Home and Body, collectors Lawrence Kreisman (of Historic Seattle) and Wayne Dodge have adjusted that imbalance by loaning some of their most cherished furnishings and decorative objects to lend the collection some context.

Permanent pieces are now at home—literally—alongside an arts-and-crafts mahogany plant stand and a lavish four-panel folding screen. A Glasgow-style armchair circa 1900 provides a sculptural element in the foreground, and a large selection of the couple’s decorative arts collection is arranged on an ornate fruitwood sideboard nearby. In the opposite corner of the room next to an oak library table, elegant mahogany chairs sport tulip motifs that despite being made a century ago still feel fresh.

Josef Hoffman, Wiener Werkstätte, dance card from the Concordia Ball circa 1909, brass, leather, paper

Other attractions from the Kreisman/Dodge collection include color plates from home furnishing books showcasing wallpaper samples of the early 20th century; and a number of decorative silver belt-buckles are lined up next to a variety of pins, buttons, and even an elaborate brass dance card from the Concordia Ball. This final item, one time treasured by a society lady, was made by the talented artisans of Vienna’s Wiener Werkstätte and adds to the notion that everything was just a little bit more elaborate in that era.

And don’t forget about the dinner parties! Three table settings are on display with coordinated flatware, porcelain, and cut crystal all designed for ritual-like dining.

To round out the collection, a handful of books with decorative covers and elaborate illustrations demonstrate how design also permeated the literary arts of Edwardian times.

It's all a lovely reminder of the importance of beautiful, everyday objects. The saving grace of these items is their elaborate motifs and fine craftsmanship, allowing them to survive for over a century perfectly intact.

The 1900 exhibit is on view through May 3.

Art nouveau place setting circa 1904

Image: Mark Woods