World War II

Black and white photograph of the East Gallery of the Frick Collection in 1942 depicts war-time arrangement of collection.
Rearrangement and New Acquisitions During World War IIJune 1, 1942 to May 31, 1945

During World War II, The Frick Collection underwent its first complete rearrangement since it was opened to the public in 1935. The removal of a number of works of art to a place of safety made possible an interesting and attractive rehanging of all the galleries. Many paintings were available for study in different settings. Pictures long off display were seen again. Drawings and prints by Rembrandt, Titian, Rubens, Dürer, Whistler, and others were placed on exhibition for the first time; as was a newly acquired painting by Monet and a set of watercolor drawings by William Blake.

Overseas Connections

Beginning in the 1920s, the Frick Art Reference Library engaged overseas representatives to secure books and photographs. Clotilde Brière and Lea Danesi Tolnay acquired auction, sales, and exhibition catalogues, periodicals, monographs, and photographs from Europe, enriching the Library’s collection.  Photographer Mario Sansoni was hired to photograph paintings, monuments, and frescoes, many of which had no previous visual record.

Maps for Monuments Men

During World War II, the Frick Art Reference Library played a pivotal role in the international effort to identify and protect monuments and works of art in Europe from damage and destruction by armed forces. Helen Clay Frick, the founder and Director of the Library, invited the Committee of the American Council of Learned Societies on Protection of Cultural Treasures in War Areas to take up residence at the Library from 1943 to 1945.

Group photo

Bill Burke and Jane Mull, members of the Committee on the Protection of Cultural Treasures in War Areas at the ACLS, working at the Frick Art Reference Library with Gladys Hamlin, draftswoman, on a map of Paris.

Photograph of Bill Burke, Jane Mull, and Gladys Hamlin preparing a map at the Frick Art Reference Library, ca. 1943-1944. The Frick Collection/Frick Art Reference Library Photographs. Courtesy of the National Archives.