Letter from the Director: Winter 2016

This letter is reprinted from the Winter 2016 issue of the Members’ Magazine.

Van Dyck's oil painting portrait of woman in blue dress, golden hair piece, holding bracelet


Many of the Frick’s exhibitions offer a deeper understanding of the permanent collection by juxtaposing the museum’s paintings and sculptures with objects loaned by sister institutions or private collections, placing works of art in the context of an artist’s career or highlighting a particular aspect of his approach. Other shows explore the relationship of a specific artist to his contemporaries or, like the recent Andrea del Sarto: The Renaissance Workshop in Action, demonstrate the role of preliminary studies in the creative process. Van Dyck: The Anatomy of Portraiture, opening on March 2, does all of these things. The first major exhibition focusing on the Flemish artist to be held in the United States in more than twenty years, it reveals how the Frick’s Van Dyck paintings fit into his oeuvre. Comparison with works by Van Dyck’s mentor Peter Paul Rubens sheds light on his early training, while portraits made in Italy and England chart the artist’s international trajectory. Above all, the show will remind you why Van Dyck is considered one of the most brilliant portraitists of all time.

The exhibition—one of the most comprehensive the Frick has ever mounted—will be followed in July by a focused examination of a little-studied aspect of the great French eighteenth-century artistpainting of soldiers seated and standing against walll Jean-Antoine Watteau. Best known for his fêtes champêtres (idyllic scenes of noble men and women disporting outdoors), Watteau also produced a group of oils depicting soldiers at rest, one of which, the Frick’s Portal of Valenciennes, inspired this show. Through comparison to chalk studies, the exhibition will explore his method of composition as well as the motivation behind these small canvases.

To complement these exhibitions, we have created a range of educational programs for our diverse audience. In the coming months, you can hear the curators who organized the Van Dyck and Watteau exhibitions lecture about the drawings, etchings, and paintings on loan, as well as the works from the permanent collection that inspired the shows. Visiting scholars will present more focused, in-depth seminars while programs tailored specifically for middle school, high school, and college students will engage the next generation of art lovers.

We are especially excited by one of our newest educational programs, a collaboration with the Cinema School (TCS) in the South Bronx. Founded in 2009 by the nonprofit Ghetto Film School and the City of New York,photo of students with equipment filming in gallery TCS is the country’s first public high school focusing on the cinematic arts. Over the course of a year, the school’s honor students participated in seminars led by Peter Jay Sharp Chief Curator Xavier F. Salomon to understand how the visual arts relate to their own storytelling and filmmaking. At the seminar’s conclusion, the students created a short film, The Progress of Love, in response to Jean-Honoré Fragonard’s painting cycle of the same name. We are delighted to see these paintings—among the best known and most beloved in the permanent collection—afresh through the eyes of these talented young students. I hope you will make time to visit the galleries soon to find your own personal delight and meaning in these beautiful works.

Anthony van Dyck (1599–1641), Mary, Lady van Dyck, née Ruthven, ca. 1640. Oil on canvas. Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid

Jean-Antoine Watteau, The Portal of Valenciennes, 1709−10. Oil on canvas. The Frick Collection; purchased with funds from the bequest of Arthemise Redpath, 1991. Photo: Michael Bodycomb

Honors students from The Cinema School at The Frick Collection. Photo: Michael Bodycomb

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