Mr. Frick’s former office, just off the West Gallery, was demolished to make way for the Oval Room. An oval shape was chosen because, according to Pope, “It could be creatively treated as a thing in itself, contrasting with the court’s rectangle. . . . As such it would have a certain definite elegance of its own.” Deliberations over which works would be displayed in the new gallery took place even before the room’s construction; a full-size plan of the room was produced with frames constructed to represent the paintings under consideration.
Such thoughtful planning was appreciated by critics like Edward Alden Jewell in The New York Times, who, on December 15, 1935, praised “the ingenious — no, the inspired — arrangement of pictures in the sumptuously appointed Oval Room. . . . Here directly before us hangs the beautiful portrait of Philip IV of Spain by Velázquez. The other paintings in this room are, all of them, Whistlers. . . . a rather strange group [but] in that all but miraculous Oval Room, with its deft touches of Byzantine marble and specially toned walnut, the walls covered with silvery-gray William and Mary brocade, such juxtaposition appears really the most natural in the world.”
The Oval Room, 2010 (photo: Michael Bodycomb, The Frick Collection)
The Oval Room, 1935 (photo: The Frick Collection/Frick Art Reference Library Archives)
Angelo Magnanti (1879–1969)
Oval Room of The Frick Collection, 1935
Elevation drawing; graphite, colored pencils, watercolor, and gold leaf on Strathmore paper
The Frick Collection/Frick Art Reference Library Archives