When Henry Clay Frick (1849–1919) was asked whose talents he would most like to possess, he declared: "Rembrandt's." And as the largest individual railway stockholder in the world, Frick is reported to have said that "railways are the Rembrandts of investment." Like Frick, the Dutch art historian Frederik Johannes Lugt (1884–1970) was a great admirer and collector of works by the Dutch artist Rembrandt van Rijn (1606–69); as a teenager he wrote a biography of the artist, illustrated with his own copies after Rembrandt's most famous works. In 2011 the Frick presented a selection of Rembrandt's works as seen through the eyes of these two renowned collectors, devoting three exhibition spaces to the work of this artist and his school.
On display in the Oval Room were five paintings from the Frick's permanent collection — four acquired by Henry Clay Frick between 1899 and 1919 and the fifth by the trustees in 1943 from the collection of J. Pierpont Morgan. Three of these works are unquestionable masterpieces by the artist —Nicolaes Ruts (1631), The Polish Rider (c. 1655), and the Self-Portrait (1658). Two of the paintings — Portrait of a Young Artist and Old Woman with a Book — were acquired by Frick as Rembrandts but are today attributed to artists in his entourage. This was the first time that all five paintings were united in a monographic display. The Cabinet featured a selection of etchings and drawings by Rembrandt acquired by Henry Clay Frick at the end of his life. These works on paper, part of the founding bequest and therefore unavailable for loan, are rarely on display.
On view in the downstairs galleries was a loan exhibition of 66 works on paper by Rembrandt and his school from the collection of Frits Lugt, now housed in the Fondation Custodia, Paris. Eighteen drawings by the artist as well as a group of his prints were accompanied by 36 master drawings by his most prominent pupils and students, including Ferdinand Bol, Gerbrand van den Eeckhout, Carel Fabritius, Govaert Flinck, Jan Lievens, and Nicolaes Maes. The exhibition was organized by Colin B. Bailey, the Frick's Associate Director and Peter Jay Sharp Chief Curator, in conjunction with Margaret Iacono, Assistant Curator, and Joanna Sheers, Curatorial Assistant.
Principal funding for the exhibition was provided by The Christian Humann Foundation, Jean-Marie and Elizabeth Eveillard, and Melvin R. Seiden. Corporate support was provided by Fiduciary Trust Company International. The exhibition was also supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities. The catalogue was made possible by the Robert Lehman Foundation, Inc. It was also underwritten, in part, by public funds from the Netherlands Cultural Services and by the Netherland-America Foundation.