Séance: Albert von Keller and the Occult at Frye Art Museum (Seattle, USA)

Séance: Albert von Keller and the Occult
Frye Art Museum
Oct. 9, 2010, through Jan. 2, 2011

Major paintings by the Munich Secessionist Albert von Keller which explore the occult, mystical healing, and the life of the soul at the dawn of the twentieth century are presented in Séance: Albert von Keller and the Occult, on view Oct. 9, 2010, through Jan. 2, 2011, at the Frye Art Museum, Seattle.

Curated by Frye Director Jo-Anne Birnie Danzker and Swiss art historian Gian Casper Bott, and drawing on the renowned collection of the Kunsthaus Zürich, Séance is the first exhibition in America dedicated exclusively to the work of Albert von Keller (1844–1920).

A founding member of the Munich Secession, one of Europe’s most influential artists’ associations, Keller was a flamboyant figure who was highly regarded on both sides of the Atlantic for his modern, psychological painting and his interest in the occult. An artist of exceptional ability, Keller’s lifelong search for new techniques and visual forms to describe shifting, uncertain, states of being was often overshadowed by his spectacular subject matter.

Fascinated by the paranormal and the mysteries of the human psyche, Keller was equally enthralled by traditional Christian narratives such as the raising of the dead, the powers of mystical healing, and the mysteries of stigmata. His close association with the Munich psychiatrist Dr. Albert von Schrenck-Notzing (1862–1929), and his participation in séances and paranormal experiments, placed him at the center of passionate debates in fin de siècle Germany on Seelenleben, or the life of the soul.

This premiere exhibition at the Frye Art Museum – its sole US venue – showcases Keller’s enigmatic subjects—corpses, séances, dancers in trance-like states, martyred saints, and burning witches—revealing a potent combination of religious fervor, mysticism and sensuality.

Accompanying the exhibition at the Frye Art Museum will be a 104-page catalog that documents the reception of Albert von Keller’s work in America and Europe; his participation in international exhibitions in Chicago, New York, and Saint Louis; and his presence in important private collections of German art in America. Both the exhibition and the catalog feature key works by Keller from the late 1870s to the beginning of the First World War, a period that coincided with the scandal of his elopement with the beautiful banker’s daughter, Irene von Eichthal (1858–1907); the tragic death of his only child, Hans Balthasar, in 1906; and the death of Keller’s wife only months later in a state of profound grief.

Frye public programs associated with Séance highlight the connection between Keller’s time and the present, noting the resurgence of interest in the supernatural and forms of knowledge outside of conventional scientific endeavor. Scheduled are programs exploring the fascination of artists, writers, dancers, and intellectuals with the mysteries of the human psyche and the occult in the late-nineteenth century.

Humanities Washington has generously supported exhibition-related lectures and pubic programs including a series of three Connections and Contexts lectures co-presented by the Frye Art Museum, the University of Washington’s Germanics Department and Simpson Center for the Humanities. An important contribution to ongoing scholarship on the Frye Founding Collection, this series will include lectures by the following distinguished scholars: Professor Dr. Georg Braungart, Professor of Literature at the University of Tübingen; Dr. Sabine Wilke, Professor of German at the University of Washington; and Dr. Ann-Charlotte Gavel Adams, Professor of Swedish Studies at the University of Washington.

Other public programs include gallery talks with the exhibition’s curators, psychoanalysts, and a dance/movement therapist, as well as historical and contemporary film screenings and discussion through the Magic Lantern: Talks on Film and Art series.

Séance: Albert von Keller and the Occultis organized by the Frye Art Museum and curated by Jo-Anne Birnie Danzker and Gian Casper Bott. The exhibition is funded by the Frye Foundation with the generous support of Frye Art Museum members and donors. Seasonal support is provided by ArtsFund. Public programs are supported by Humanities Washington.

Frye Art Museum