The museum emphasizes painting and sculpture from the nineteenth century to the present. Its holdings originate in the private collection of Charles Frye. Charles, owner of a local meatpacking plant, set aside money in his will for a museum to house the Fryes' collection of over 230 paintings. The Frye Art Museum opened to the public in 1952, and was Seattle's first free art museum. The Fryes' collection consisted entirely of representational works, with a tendency toward "the dark, the dramatic, and the psychological" rather than "the genteel". The museum's permanent collection reflects Charles Frye's relatively conservative artistic tastes, and the museum continued to be dedicated exclusively to representational art, both in its acquisitions and its exhibits.