Monday 21 May 2012

The Frick Collection

The Frick Collection, 1 East 70 St at Fifth Avenue, comprises art treasures amassed by Henry Clay Frick and is housed in the mansion he had built in 1914.

Opened in 1935, the Museum has been kept as it looked when the Fricks lived there.  What sets it apart from most museums is that it strives hard to be as unlike a museum as possible. There is no wall text describing the pictures, no ropes and there are fresh flowers on every table.

We were not allowed to photograph anywhere inside the building, so photographs of the outside will have to do.

Inside the Museum, there is an enclosed central Garden Court with marble floors, fountains and greenery which is extremely peaceful and serene.

Even though Frick's main passion was paintings, he also collected antique tables, chests, chairs and sculpture, all of which are spread liberally throughout the mansion.

The Living Hall

houses one of the most impressive Renaissance pictures anywhere in America:

Giovanni Bellini, St. Francis in the Desert, 1476-78

Stunningly well preserved, Bellini's figure suggests Francis'  vision of Christ who seems to be in a state of mystical transport. He strides barefoot from his simple shelter into a rock-strewn wilderness: with his hands extended he is transfigured by a supernatural radiance that emanates from the clouds in the upper left section of the painting.  On the palms of the saint one can see faint traces of the stigmata.

Hans Holbein the Younger, Portrait of Thomas Cromwell, 1533

Hans Holbein the Younger, Portrait of Sir Thomas More, 1527

These two Tudor adversaries now seem to stare at each other in the Living Hall, separated by El Greco's St Jerome.

The Library and North Hall

J.M.W. Turner, Cologne: The Arrival of a Packet-Boat: Evening, 1826

Turner achieved the transparency of water colour painting in this canvas and some seem to think that he combined oil and watercolours here. The painting depicts glorious light in early evening.

J.M.W. Turner, The Harbor of Dieppe, 1825-26.

Hanging opposite Cologne, this painting depicts early morning light and was very daring for its time because the sun is painted twice.

Both pictures dominate that very large room and their lightness and brilliancy were spellbinding.

J.M.W. Turner, Fishing Boats Entering Calais Harbor, 1803

Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas, The Rehearsal, 1878-79

The unidentified violinist appears divorced from the events surrounding him, his age and stolid form providing a contrast to the doll-like ballerinas.


Johannes Vermeer, Mistress and Maid, 1666-67

After 1660 one of Vermeer's prevalent themes is women writing letters. In this painting he added another person, the maid, and so he introduced an element of dramatic tension between the two women over the letter and its content. There is also the tension between the different classes expressed in the difference in the colours and richness of their dress. The light in the painting comes from the left and falls on the mistresses face as is apparent from the shadow of the table on her legs.

Johannes Vermeer, Girl Interrupted at her Music, 1658-59

The painting shows typical courtship in the 17th century and it focuses on the importance of music when it comes to love. This is shown by the painting in the background of the scene, which is that of Cupid. It is also shown by the wine glass on the table as drinking wine was associated with love in that period: in this case the glass is full to show the slow moving relationship between the young woman and the older man.

Johannes Vermeer, Officer and Laughing Girl, 1657

This is a study of a light-filled space - the theme is of a girl entertaining her suitor. The silhouette of the officer helps give the painting the illusion of depth and contrasts with the play of light on the woman and the furnishings.

James McNeill Whistler, Arrangement in Black and Gold: Comte de Montesquiou-Fezensac, 1891-92

The Comte de Montesquiou, a symbolist poet and aristocratic dandy was a model for Baron de Charlus in Proust's novel A la Recherche du Temps Perdu.

Arrangement in Brown and Black: Portrait of Miss Rosa Corder - James McNeill Whistler

J.M. Whistler, Arrangement in Brown and Black: Portrait of Miss Rosa Corder, 1876-78

Corder was an artist herself. The painting is one of several where Whistler explores the juxtaposition of black forms against a black background. Some critics have suggested that this use of black on black is verging on, and is a forerunner of abstraction.

The Dining Room

Peter Bruegel the Elder, Three Soldiers, 1568

West Gallery

Claude-Oscar Monet, Vetheil in Winter, 1878-79

The ice floes of the Seine and Vetheuil's  mediaeval church tower.

The Enamels Room

Leonard Limousin, Triumph of the Eucharist, c. 1560s-70s, enamel on copper

Leonard Limousin, Portrait

These were stunning. The colours were incredibly vibrant, suggesting a combination of the features of oil painting and stained glass.


  1. The pictures are amazing

  2. Pics was awesome.