Highlights of the Frick Collection in New York City
Renoir, Stuart, Vermeer and Many More: the Frick's Masterpieces
The Frick Collection is an art museum in Manhattan's Upper East Side, and is world-famous for its collection of Old Master paintings. Included in the collection are works by Goya, El Greco, Rembrandt, Vermeer and Whistler, among many others.
The building itself is worth seeing as well. The collection is housed in the former residence of Pittsburgh magnate Henry Clay Frick, and it bills itself as one of New York City's few remaining Gilded Age mansions. Frick helped choose the layout of the building and where many of the paintings would be hung, so there's a strong sense that you are visiting the man's home when you enter the museum.
The painting here is Jean Honore Fragonard's Surprise, which you can see at the museum. Unfortunately, the museum doesn't allow photography, so all the images you see here are from the Internet, and used without copyright infringement.
UPDATE JANUARY 2014: We recently returned to the Frick to see the visiting painting Girl With the Pearl Earring and other paintings from the Hague at a temporary exhibition. While there we saw that the Frick was displaying some of its finest timepieces in a separate exhibition that will last through March 2014. Below are some details of that display.
Vermeer's Officer and Laughing Girl
Find it in the Collection's South Hall
In the museum's south hall is the collection's first true highlight: Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer's Officer and Laughing Girl. This painting from about 1657 is also known as Officer With a Laughing Girl and Officer and a Laughing Girl.
The contrast between the darkness of the officer's back and the brightness of the girl's face really makes the painting seem like real life, and the map on the wall is intricate and beautifully done. The map has been dated to 1621 and has appeared in other Vermeer paintings. For an in-depth analysis of this magnificent work see here.
Nearby is another Vermeer, Girl Interrupted at her Music. It didn't carry quite the power that Officer and a Laughing Girl did, but this painting from 1660-1661 does have an odd distinction. The painting gave Susanna Kaysen the title of her best-selling memoir, ''Girl, Interrupted,'' which later was made into a movie with Wynona Ryder! To see the painting click here.
Books About the Frick Collection
When you do a search for the Frick Collection you get 755 items under the books category alone! There's sure to be a book that covers the angle or aspect of the Frick that most interests you.
The Fragonard Room's Exquisite Beauty
One of the main highlights of the Frick Collection is the Fragonard Room, which contains 11 works by the French artist Jean-Honore Fragonard. The four largest panels were commissioned by Louis XV.
The paintings are exuberant and brightly painted, and really make the room stand out from the others in the collection. Here is a virtual tour of the room from the Frick Collection's website.
The Fragonard Room's History
Turner's Paintings of Dieppe and Cologne
The British Artist Shines at the Frick!
The British artist J.M.W. Turner has never been one of my favorite painters, so I was almost taken aback when I entered the Frick's West Gallery. Turner's The Harbor of Dieppe (shown here) and his Cologne: The Arrival of a Packet-Boat: Evening jump out from all the other paintings in the room because of their luminosity.
The works face each other across the room, and are large -- about 5 1/2 feet by 7 feet. They are well worth seeking out when you visit. For more on the Dieppe painting see here. For the Cologne painting see here.
An Examination of Turner's The Harbor of Dieppe
Ingres' Portrait of Comtesse d'Haussonville
Jean-August-Dominique Ingres' portrait of Louise de Broglie, the countess of d'Haussonville, is located in the north gallery and stands out for the beauty of its subject. In the painting, she appears to be looking at someone who has interrupted her, perhaps considering something that the person has said.
Painted in 1845, the work captures the independence for which the countess was known.
Please watch this video:
Sir Thomas More by Holbein the Younger
Find it in the Museum's Living Hall
The paintings in the living hall of the museum are arranged just as Henry Clay Frick planned before his death, and a main focal point of the room is an El Greco with paintings by Holbein the Younger on either side of it.
The El Greco is painting of St. Jerome from between 1590 to 1600, and may be familiar to you if you have been to the Metropolitan Museum of Art because there were at least four copies made of the painting. To see the MMA's painting click here.
To the right of the El Greco (as you are facing it) is Holbein's painting of Thomas Cromwell and to the left is Holbein's portrait of Sir Thomas More (seen here). The More painting is what caught my eye the most, because the brightness of the green draperies really sets off his face.
Renoir's la Promenade
Renoir's la Promenade in the East Gallery is just a thrilling painting. It has gorgeous colors, and evokes a wonderful time in society when people dressed up in their finest clothes for a walk in the park. Amazing, this painting from 1875-76 was received very poorly when it was exhibited in 1876, according to the Frick Collection's website.
Here is a video that discusses the painting:
Timepieces From the 1500s to 1830: Working Pieces of Art
The Frick is presenting 25 clocks and watches from its collection in a special exhibition called Precision and Splendor that is well worth seeing. The display also includes five clocks on loan that illustrate the majesty of 18th-century France.
The earliest timepiece on display is from 1530, when the first spring-driven clocks were made. Many of the early pieces, were working pieces of art meant to be utilitarian but also to show off the wealth of the user, and they are indeed beautiful. One large wall clock is adorned with dragons statues at the bottom that any lover of fantasy would think were great.
One interesting piece from France contained two clocks -- one for the normal 24-hour time that we are used to and the other for the French Revolution-inspired decimal time, where the day is broken into 10 hours. That must have been very confusing.
The clock shown here is from France, circa 1785–90.
Meissen Porcelain on Display at the Frick - Porcelain Popularized in the 1700s
During our visit to the Frick Collection we concentrated mainly on the paintings, but the museum does have many other objects that are worth a visitor's attention. Many pieces of the furniture on display are considered masterpieces, for instance.
And along the Portico Gallery there are several wall displays of Meissen porcelain, which was developed in the early 1700s near Dresden. The first case shows the earliest pieces, among them red teapots and bowls. Another case contains Japanese-inspired ware from the 1730s. Be sure to check out the original piece of Japanese porcelain from 1700 and contrast it with the Messein knockoff from 1729-1730.
For more information on Meissen porcelain see here.
Or you can purchase this book on the subject off Amazon.
Henry Clay Frick, The Man behind the Collection - Coke Magnate to Art Collector
The museum's music room, which was added after Frick's death, shows a movie about his life and the building of the collection. It is well worth seeing, especially to watch the way the building was first built and how it was expanded after his death by architect John Russell Pope.
Frick (1849-1919) founded a coke company near Pittsburgh and later teamed up with Andrew Carnegie to form the United States Steel company. He later broke with Carnegie and moved to New York, where he bought an entire block along Fifth Avenue across from Central Park to build the mansion that would later become the museum.
Here are some books that offer more on the life of the magnate and art collector.
Have You Ever Toured the Frick Collection?
Here is a portrait of George Washington by Gilbert Stuart, painted in 1795-96, that hangs in the museum's library. It is unusual in that his jacket is a different color than most of the Washington portraits I've seen by Stuart.
Have you been to see this painting? Or are you planning to go? Please let everyone know by joining in this poll.
Have You Ever Been to the Frick Collection?
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I hope this review gave you a flavor of what is in the Frick Collection, and maybe encourages you to visit the place. Please feel free to share your thoughts on the Frick Collection, this review or anything else relevant.
Thanks for visiting!