Introduction to The Frick Collection

Introduction to The Frick Collection


(gentle music) – [Voiceover] The name
of this institution, The Frick Collection,
says everything about it. It’s the feeling of setting, that we’re not just seeing
objects in isolation, we’re seeing objects
into domestic interior. (gentle orchestral music) – [Voiceover] You walk in and you have the sense that you’re seeing the house as Frick left it when he died. – [Voiceover] This was
a collection associated with one man who’s name was synonymous with great quality, with the highest possible quality. (gentle orchestral music) – [Voiceover] Henry Clay
Frick was the grandson of a whiskey distiller. He had very little formal education, but from early on had
a talent for figures. He started life as a sort of
high level shop assistant, and he was also interested
in works of art. – [Voiceover] And he was a sickly child, so he was not robust physically, but he was very ambitious. – [Voiceover] He saw
around him the potential to become involved with coke. Because the steel industry
was just beginning to take off in Pittsburgh. (hammering) By time he was 30 he had already become a millionaire. – [Voiceover] This enterprise
proved so lucrative that he ultimately sold a good deal of it to Andrew Carnegie and he became a partner
in Carnegie Brothers. – [Voiceover] In 1881 Henry Clay Frick marries Adelaide Childs
and they start a family. The have a daughter, Helen, a son, Childs Frick, and two other children
who die in childood. He creates Clayton, a grand house in the
best part of Pittsburgh. – [Voiceover] In Pittsburgh he began collecting works by local artists. His early collection doesn’t
show a spirit of adventure, it shows a spirit of
someone who loved pictures. (film rolling) – [Voiceover] It’s
impressive and part of the American dream to come from such a humble background and to develop into a titan of industry. (subdued music) – [Voiceover] His business
relationship with Carnegie was not exactly smooth, and of course the
Homestead Strike in 1892. – [Voiceover] He was the
one, with Carnegie coaching, who hired Pinkerton
mercenaries to break up the strike at the Homestead Steel plant. Frick was hated in Pittsburgh because of that strike. And while the big break up with Carnegie didn’t come until 1899, the Homestead Strike
was the turning point. (gentle orchestral music) And I think that influenced his desire to leave Pittsburgh, (bell ringing) to come to New York, to have a different life. (gentle orchestral music) – [Voiceover] At this point
Frick is enormously wealthy, he’s now in his mid 50’s, he rents a very, very grand house that belonged to the Vanderbilts. – [Voiceover] And he begins at that time to get caught up with the
chase for the old masters, the market was just opening. And also he’s stepping
into a larger arena. (gentle orchestral music) – [Voiceover] Frick buys
a property on 5th Avenue, a whole block front, which is an amazing
thing to be able to do. (gentle orchestral music) – [Voiceover] When Frick
moved into his house which was built beetween 1913 and 1914, he wanted the focus to be on the pictures, and that was something that he worked out very clearly with the interior
designer that he chose, Sir Charles Alam. – [Voiceover] And we know that he intended for the house to become a museum even though he did not tell his architect, Thomas Hastings. (gentle orchestral music) – [Voiceover] The popular press covered art collecting and art purchases much more avidly in the
days of Henry Clay Frick than they do today. J.P. Morgan died in the spring of 1913. Morgan’s son decided that he wanted to sell a large group of works, and they were put on exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum for about two years. – [Voiceover] Frick went shopping. (gentle orchestral music) – [Voiceover] And when he is told that the great Fragonard
series can be acquired he does not hesitate to
enter into another year of disruption and upheaval to recreate a Fragonard room in what had previously been a drawing room. – [Voiceover] After the purchase of the Fragonard room panels Henry Clay Frick selected the best of J. Pierpont Morgan’s
Renaissance bronzes, Chinese porcelains, and Limoges enamels. – [Voiceover] Because it wasn’t enough simply to have a great collection of old master paintings, he began to buy outstanding furniture and decorative arts as well. (gentle orchestral music) – [Voiceover] What seperates Henry Clay Frick’s
collecting of old masters from those of many of his peers is that he did refine his collection. – [Voiceover] He is drawn to great, great works of art. – [Voiceover] He
preferred serene pictures, mostly portraits and landscapes. – [Voiceover] He loved
portraits of beautiful women. – [Voiceover] He wanted works that were pleasant to live with, and the works that he purchased fit this domestic environment very, very beautifully. (gentle piano music) – [Voiceover] Even though he doesn’t talk much about his feelings for the works of art, they were a source of enormous
emotional satisfaction. And he would go to the
West Gallery at night just to look at the
pictures and to walk around. – [Voiceover] Where one feels closest to Mr. Frick is in the living hall, which is installed
almost exactly as it was when he lived here. And it was he who chose that disposition of the Holbeins on either
side of the El Greco and the Titians on either
side of the Bellini. – [Voiceover] The Fricks
moved into the house in November of 1914. He died in December of 1919. So he only had five years here. (gentle piano music) – [Voiceover] He stipulated in his will that the museum be created upon his death in 1919, but that his wife be able to live in the house until her death, and she lived until 1931. (lighthearted orchestral music) – [Voiceover] But in order to convert the house into a museum a new architectural
campaign had to take place and the trustees hired John Russell Pope. – [Voiceover] What John Russell Pope did was to enclose what
had been a carriage way that ran from 70th street to 71st street and to create an entrance
hall reception area to create the Oval Room, The East Gallery, and the Music Room. – [Voiceover] The largest, the most, in some ways the most
dramatic transformation, is to create an inner
sanctum, the Garden Court, that for many people is the
heart of the Frick Collection. – [Voiceover] Visitors
are always facinated to discover that the Garden Court was once this driveway from 70th
Street to 71st street. And I think they’re surprised
because it’s so effortless, it’s so of a piece that you almost can’t imagine
what the Frick Collection would be without that
central gathering place. – [Voiceover] John Russel Pope also designed the new library, The Frick Art Reference Library, which Helen Clay Frick founded the year after her father’s death in 1920. – [Voiceover] So in a way the footprint almost doubled in scale, but the house remained intact and remained very much the way it was in Frick’s day. But now there was simply enough room to spread the collection out, to add further acquisitions, and to accomodate the public, to turn it into a museum. (brids chirping) (lighthearted orchestral music) – [Voiceover] The New York Times and the other newspapers quoted visitors as having been astonished by the treasures that they
found within these walls. – [Voiceover] They would
go through a collection that was not organized by school, but in which all the various schools, the Italian, and the French, Spanish, etcetera, were intermixed. One of the great things that Frick gave to this museum was the opportunity to add to it. And he conceived of it
as a living institution, one that would develop after his lifetime. – [Voiceover] And his
daughter was the leading proponent of additions. – [Voiceover] She buys the
early Italian paintings, the Piero Della Francesca, the Duccio. – [Voiceover] I think most
of the education activities have grown out of the educational mission that Frick declared in his will. – [Voiceover] He said that he wanted to create this collection so that the entire public shall forever have access. – [Voiceover] There has been a continous tradition of fellows, of scholars doing research, and study, and publication here. – [Voiceover] Exhibitions are a very, very important part of
the life of the Frick. Both large scale ones and little in focus exhibitions
around just one painting. (gentle music) – [Voiceover] There’s a kind of freedom when you come to the Frick where you can come and you
can study the pictures, you can come and you
can study the furniture, but you can also drift through inhaling the gilded age, or you can drift through and feel uplifted by a sense of the
aesthetic and the beautiful. – [Voiceover] I think the founder, the personality of the founder, the history of the founder and his family, is very strong here, it’s the reason we are here. – [Voiceover] And while
he sought the opinions of people he trusted, in the end he made the decisions himself. I think that is why the collection has so much personality and why it’s so great. (gentle orchestral music) (lighthearted orchestral music)

25 thoughts on “Introduction to The Frick Collection

  1. Acabo de visitar este canal que me ha parecido una maravilla. Sus vídeos son de gran interés, perfecta factura y calidad técnica y artística por lo que me suscribo. Gracias por compartir tan excelentes trabajos. Un saludo.
    José Luis.

  2. I have been here several times, it is hands down, my favorite collection. Mr Frick had an exquisite eye and did acquire the very best of paintings, enamelware, furniture, bronzes…everything in there is exceptional. My personal favorite items which don't get mentioned often are the massive sterling urns or wine coolers ….they are astoundingly beautiful. Thank you for a fine film. Mr Frick was very kind to think of the public and make his home a museum, and he had this vision and intent years before he died, in his mind before his house was built.

  3. This was such a lovely video. Absolutely captures what it's like to visit the museum, and as a PA native, I loved hearing about the history of Frick's rise in the steel mills. Beautifully done. Thank you. 🙂

  4. I remember that my Grand Mother had told me. This picture frame had been given to her by her Grandfather; which had been given to him by Henry Clay Frick. That is just the way it is, for some of us !

  5. I haven't been to the Frick in many years, but I remember the Rembrandt 'Polish Rider' as being in one of the living rooms: perhaps the drawing room or the library? Anyway, it's clearly now in the large gallery, with many other great paintings, but it loses a lot of its impact in such a large space. I wonder what was the reason for this change. Wonderful documentary film, by the way.

  6. Him …Him ..Him. Did his wife have no say in anything at all? Was she a mute ? I expect she might have had at least 30% input into this whole story of the Fricks..!!

  7. Me recomendaron visitar este Museo, en ese momento creía que era uno más en la Gran Manzana pero a medida que lo recorría me fue cautivando hasta enamorarme, no solo como Museo sino también como edificio y vivienda del matrimonio Frick. Volvía el año pasado y siguió prendando. Este vídeo me encantó, excelente en su concepción y montaje, y aumento me enamoramiento con él. No dejo de recomendarlo a mis amigos que viajen a Nueva York.

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