Letter from the Director: Summer 2016

This letter is reprinted from the Spring/Summer 2016 issue of the Members’ Magazine.

pair of gilt-bronze candelabra, circa 1782, with hard-paste porcelain and marble elements


Art is the heart of The Frick Collection, and while the distinguished residence built by Carrère and Hastings in 1912–14 (and perfectly complemented by John Russell Pope’s 1934 addition) provides the setting critical to the visitor’s experience, Henry Clay Frick’s magnificent collection of paintings, sculptures, and decorative arts was the real impetus for his endowment of the institution. Since Mr. Frick’s death, in 1919, the museum has continued to acquire objects of the highest quality, in keeping with Mr. Frick’s tradition of collecting only the finest European masterpieces from the Renaissance to the early twentieth century.

Many visitors may not be aware of how much the collection has grown since Mr. Frick’s day. His daughter Helen Clay shared her father’s passion for art and, as the chairman of the museum’s acquisitions committee for nearly forty years, played a key role in expanding the institution’s range, with important acquisitions by Italian Renaissance masters Duccio, Cimabue, and Piero della Francesca. Visitors are often surprised to learn that one of the museum’s most recognized and popular works, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres’s Comtesse d’Haussonville was acquired not by Mr. Frick but by the institution’s trustees, in 1927. Countless other works have been added to the collection since, including, in 1991, Jean-Antoine Watteau’s Portal of Valenciennes, the inspiration for this summer’s exhibition Watteau’s Soldiers: Scenes of Military Life in Eighteenth-Century France.

The Frick has also acquired several collections as gifts, beginning with the collection of blue and white Chinese porcelain bequeathed in 1965 by the founder’s son, Childs Frick. In 1999, Winthrop Kellogg Edey’s collection of early European clocks and watches came to the Frick by bequest, creating a constellation around a bright star, the eighteenth-century French longcase regulator clock purchased by Mr. Frick in 1915. A number of objects from Henry Arnhold’s promised gift of Meissen porcelain were formally transferred to the museum just recently and are featured in the exhibition Porcelain, No Simple Matter: Arlene Shechet and the Arnhold Collection.

This past year has seen several spectacular additions to the permanent collection. Among them was a pair of candelabra by Pierre Gouthière that was purchased a few months ago with the help of trustee Sidney R. Knafel, who also was instrumental in the acquisition of a rare Saint-Porchaire ewer last year. Continuing a tradition of adding great private holdings to our own, I am delighted to announce a significant gift of portrait medals from the Stephen K. and Janie Woo Scher Collection, the finest private collection of medals in the world. Highlights from this gift will be the focus of a major exhibition next year, as well as a comprehensive catalogue. Read more about this gift in a curatorial blog post here.

I am hugely grateful to these collectors and donors, whose generosity adds to the vitality of the Frick now and for future generations. During your next visit, be sure to keep an eye out for these wonderful additions to the collection.

Pair of Candelabra, 1782. Gilt-bronze mounts by Pierre Gouthière after a design by François-Joseph Bélanger. Hard-paste porcelain, marble, and gilt bronze, 43.5 x 17.5 x 17.5 cm. The Frick Collection; gift of Sidney R. Knafel, 2016. Photo: Michael Bodycomb

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