The Frick Collection opened its doors to the public in 1935, thereby fulfilling the intention of Henry Clay Frick (1849–1919) to present to New York City his extraordinary art collection and magnificent mansion. The museum’s opening was accompanied by national headlines, and present at the inaugural celebration were luminaries of the social and political worlds. Invited were Colonel and Mrs. Charles Lindbergh as well as members of the Astor, Bache, Carnegie, Mellon, Rockefeller, Straus, Sulzberger, Vanderbilt, and Warburg families. Critics spoke of it as a great “legacy of beauty” and one where the quality of its collection was “unsurpassed anywhere.”
That same year, the Frick Art Reference Library (founded in 1920 by Frick’s daughter, Helen) was greatly expanded and moved into a new building on the same lot as the original Frick mansion. Thus, 2010 was a significant milestone for the entire institution, and, to mark the occasion, the Frick presented a number of programs and new offerings.
An Orientation Film
To celebrate its 75th anniversary, the Frick launched an orientation film, which replaced a seventeen-year-old slide-based production. The film aired at the museum daily, two times every hour, beginning at 10:20 a.m. Narrated by members of the Frick's senior staff, this eleven-minute presentation was produced and directed by the award-winning filmmaker Christopher Noey. Shot in HD throughout the Frick's refurbished and relit galleries, it tells the story of Mr. Frick, his home, and his art collection and includes recently restored archival footage and other previously unreleased materials.
Publications and Shop Offerings
In this book, Colin B. Bailey, the Frick’s Associate Director and Peter Jay Sharp Chief Curator, documents the development of the Frick mansion at 1 East 70th Street and explores how the creation of the Frick residence influenced the taste of the collector in the final years of his life. Building The Frick Collection also addresses the transition from mansion to public museum subsequently undertaken by John Russell Pope. Using acquired and hitherto unpublished archival materials, Bailey carefully documents the history of the house and its owner and reveals Frick’s passionate involvement in the project. By drawing on studies of domestic architecture and interior decoration during the Gilded Age, Bailey places Frick’s achievement in context.
Fragonard Room Book
Bailey researched and wrote the first book on the museum’s magnificent Fragonard Room and the paintings installed after Henry Clay Frick purchased them through art dealer Joseph Duveen from the estate of J. P. Morgan. This room, relit and refurbished, has long been a signature gallery at the Frick, and Bailey’s book explores the fascinating story of its centerpiece, the Progress of Love panels by Jean-Honoré Fragonard (1732–1806), which are widely considered to be the artist’s masterpiece.
Online Resources Informed and Celebrated the 75th Anniversary
The archives of The Frick Collection house extremely rich and diverse holdings, and historic photographs relevant to the construction of the house and early years of the institution’s life as a museum are available on the Web site. This past multimedia project shows digital images of one of the most popular photo albums in the archival collections. Dated 1927 and featuring images by Ira W. Martin, it documents the Frick mansion as a residence just before the period when architect John Russell Pope transformed it into a public museum.
The Dining Room, The Frick Residence, New York, 1927. The Frick Collection/Frick Art Reference Library Archives.
It comes as a surprise to many that The Frick Collection has continued to add works of art to its celebrated holdings. Indeed, in the decades that immediately followed the death in 1919 of Henry Clay Frick, the Board of Trustees established by his will participated quite actively in the art market, mindful of the collecting taste and high level of quality that informed his purchases. Fully one-third of the museum’s paintings came to the institution through purchase or gift from 1920 onward, including Ingres’s Comtesse d’Haussonville (purchased in 1927) and Rembrandt’s Nicolaes Ruts (purchased in 1943). A timeline on the Web site breaks down the institution’s holdings in a chronological manner.
Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, The Comtesse d’Haussonville, 1845, The Frick Collection, New York; Photo: Michael Bodycomb.
June 22 through September 5, 2010
During the summer of 2010, an educational display in the Cabinet presented architectural drawings, photographs, and other materials related to the transformation of the Frick family home into a public institution at the hand of architect John Russell Pope. At the centerpiece of this display was a selection of elegant elevations executed for Pope by the artist Angelo Magnanti.
These large-scale architectural drawings, shown together for the first time, were presented in 1935 to the Frick's first director, Frederick Mortimer Clapp, in honor of the museum's opening. They offer insights into Pope’s vision for the series of new rooms that have since become favored galleries and contemplative spaces. A floor plan accompanied by archival and new photography elucidated the most significant alterations to The Frick Collection’s interior and, together with the drawings, told the story of transforming the once-private mansion into a public museum.
To see works from this summer educational display, click here.
John Russell Pope photographed by Pirie MacDonald around 1916. Collection of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, New York
To mark the anniversary date of the Frick’s debut as a museum, the institution was open to the public at no charge on Thursday, December 16, 2010. The precise month and day when, seventy-five years ago, fascinated New Yorkers first experienced the magnificent galleries of fine and decorative arts.
The permanent collection and special exhibition galleries were open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Docents offered gallery talks on various topics, including the 1935 conversion of the private Frick mansion into the public museum we know today. Also on view was recently conserved — but never publicly shown — archival footage of Henry Clay Frick and his family.
Offerings included docent-led talks about the Frick's beautiful period rooms, gallery conversations led by Head of Education Rika Burnham, and student programs exploring the art and architecture of the Frick since 1935. And finally, Sunday Sketch welcomed artists of all levels to draw views of the Frick from inside or outside the building on selected Sundays.