Frisson: Iconic Collection Debuts at Seattle Art Museum

July 7, 2021  20:00  |  News

Frisson: Iconic Collection Debuts at Seattle Art Museum

Lee Krasner, 1908-1984, Night Watch, 1960, oil on canvas, 79 x 99 in. ©

The Seattle Art Museum (SAM) presents Frisson: The Richard E. Lang and Jane Lang Davis Collection (October 15, 2021–ongoing), celebrating the gift of 19 exceptional works of art recently donated by the Friday Foundation in honour of late Seattle collectors and philanthropists Richard E. Lang and Jane Lang Davis.

Richard E. Lang and Jane Lang Davis built their collection during the 1970s and early 1980s, filling their home with singular works of art. In little more than a decade, they assembled one of the most significant private collections of Abstract Expressionist paintings and sculptures on the West Coast, augmented by two towering European artists of the same period. They have also devoted philanthropists in a burgeoning Seattle cultural scene. This exhibition celebrates their legacy of generosity and passion for art, particularly the “frisson” of excitement that arises from engaging deeply with art.

Frisson: Iconic Collection Debuts at Seattle Art Museum

Francis Bacon (1909-1992), Study for a Portrait, 1967, Oil on canvas, 61 x 55 in. ©

Rarely seen in public in the last 40 years, the works in Frisson will be presented in dynamic juxtapositions with each other that capture the spirit of the Langs’ shared endeavour. Conducting careful research, they chose leading examples from an artist’s career or works that marked important turning points.

Many of the works donated represent a first for SAM’s collection, including the first paintings by Francis Bacon (Portrait of Man with Glasses I, 1963 and Study for a Portrait, 1967), Lee Krasner (Night Watch, 1960), and Clyfford Still (PH-338 (1949-No. 2), 1949); it also marks the first artwork by Alberto Giacometti, the sculpture Femme de Venise II (1956). As a group, all of the works transform SAM’s collection of post-war art and present new possibilities for its artistic program. The exhibition is accompanied by a major publication with scholarly texts dedicated to each work by leading experts in the field.

“It’s thrilling to share with the public these formidable examples of Abstract Expressionism and post-war European art,” says Catharina Manchanda, Jon & Mary Shirley Curator of Contemporary Art. “The emotional current of these works, reflective of their specific time and context, runs from exuberant to contemplative, fierce to soaring. They are an invitation to engage.”

Frisson: Iconic Collection Debuts at Seattle Art Museum

Clyfford Still, 1904-1980, Number 2, 1949, oil on canvas, 92 3/4 x 69 in. ©

Frisson features 21 works of art—18 paintings, two sculptures, and one drawing—by 17 influential American and two European artists of the post-war period, spanning the years between 1945 and 1978. The works will be on view in the museum’s modern and contemporary galleries.

In addition to the 19 new works in the museum’s collection, Frisson features two paintings previously gifted to the museum: the portrait Richard Lang (1978) by Alice Neel, and Andy Warhol’s double portrait of Jane Lang (1976). Alice Neel, the subject of a major retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2021, was in her late seventies when she painted the portrait of Richard Lang. The portrait of Jane Lang was commissioned as a surprise gift on the occasion of the exhibition Andy Warhol: Portraits at SAM in 1976. The Langs donated one of the panels to the museum following the exhibition; the second panel, which stayed in their home, was gifted to SAM in 2020 by the family.