The Frick Collection is housed in the home of Henry Clay Frick, a man who made his fortune as the chairman of the Carnegie Steel Company. During his lifetie he collected some of the best-known paintings by major European artists, numerous works of sculpture and porcelain, 18th century French furniture, Limoges enamel, and Oriental rugs. When he built this house in later life he intended the mansion to eventually become a museum. When he died in 1919 he willed the house and all of its contents, including art, furniture, and decorative objects, as a museum to the public. His widow retained the residence until she passed away in 1931 and the conversion of the house into a public museum started.
Walking through the museum I liked knowing that many of the paintings are still arranged according to Frick’s design. Unfortunately none of these photos were taken by me as the museum does not allow photography but that makes it even better – it was proven that people who do not take pictures of the art remember it better.
One of my favorite parts was the free audio guide- over 300 pieces have numbers next to them and when you plug them in to your oversized cell phone device in you get a 30 to 90 second overview. Nothing new but a great FREE aspect of the museum and between my friends and I, we could all listen to the works were were interested in.
The tour books say the highlights of the collection are Jean-Honoré Fragonard’s masterpiece, The Progress of Love, three paintings by Johannes Vermeer including Mistress and Maid, and Piero della Francesca’s St. John the Evangelist. While these were all beautiful, the work I was really struck but was this painting by Edgar Degas, below. Titled The Rehearsal and created between 1878 and 1879 this painting is gorgeous. The audio guide not only summarized it’s history but it also mentioned that it used to hang in the private second floor sitting room of Henry Clay Frick as it was one of his favorite works.
One great thing – it is relatively small museum, only one floor and 19 rooms. Then again, when you remember it used to be someone’s house it it is massive. And, what I found astonishing – this Fifth Avenue residence is not his entire collection! Some is located at his residence in Pittsburgh, the Frick Art & Historical Center, and a portion was given by his daughter to the University of Pittsburgh and is located in the Frick Fine Arts Building.