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An Elegant Afternoon, Touring The Frick Collection

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An Elegant Afternoon,
Touring The Frick Collection
(Frick Collection Website)
1 East 70th Street
NYC, NY 10121


Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
December 27, 2008

(See a Review of The Arnhold Collection of Meissen Porcelain)

(Review Substantially Assisted by The Frick Collection: A Guide to Works of Art on Exhibition, 2007).

I recently toured The Frick Collection, on East 70th Street at Fifth Avenue, in the exquisite former residence of Henry Clay Frick, a business tycoon in the coke and steel industry. The architect, Thomas Hastings, built this residence in a style of 18th Century English and French interiors. The Collection, amassed by Mr. Frick and later by a Board of Trustees, was opened in 1935, for international arts aficionados and the New York arts community. The residence had been expanded for the collection by John Russell Pope and a later renovation and expansion occurred in 1977.

I should say at this point that for most of my adult life I have been touring The Frick Collection for its sense of a quiet, elegant oasis in the midst of such a noisy, crowded city. The Frick, as it’s known, presents lectures and concerts and has an iconic Gift Shop, in which I have purchased gifts and personal possessions on every visit. The Frick also holds special balls and dinners for its members. The Frick has an expansive Art Reference Library that “was founded in 1920 to serve ‘adults with a serious interest in art,’ among them scholars, art professionals, collectors, and students”. If you wish to search the Library online, you would explore FRESCO, the Frick Research Catalog Online. The highlights of my tour are mentioned below, followed by select Frick Collection photos.

I entered through the Entrance Hall and purchased a Frick Collection Guide, very reasonable and helpful. Following the Reception Hall, I stopped at the East Vestibule to see Italian paintings from the late 1400’s and the early 1700’s, all amazingly preserved with golden colors. “Adoration of the Magi” by L. Bastiani and “Perseus and Andromeda” by G.B. Tiepolo caught my eye, with the latter being a study for a Palazzo fresco in Milan. A “Pair of Covered Chinese Porcelain Jars”, c. 1747, were also located in the East Vestibule. At the Foot of the Stairs and Landing, I gazed at Franz Hals’ “Portrait of a Man”, c. 1660, and the grand Aeolian Pipe Organ, installed in 1914, which I would have loved to hear played.

The next stop was the South Hall, where three Vermeers were on display, “Girl Interrupted at Her Music”, c. 1657, “Officer and Laughing Girl”, c. 1658-59, and “Mistress and Maid”, c. 1666-67. I especially focused on the first, with its hazy image of Cupid, but the sense of luminosity and character interpretation was riveting in all three works. Boucher’s “A Lady on Her Daybed”, 1743, was at once sensitive and seductive. Decorative Art displays in the South Hall included “Two Fauteuils” in tapestry flowers and fruit and J-H Riesener’s 18th century “Commode and Secrétaire”. I loved the small Octagon Room, which houses F. Laurana’s 1470’s “Bust of a Lady” marble sculpture. In the larger Anteroom, there were numerous works celebrating religious and military events, in addition to H. Memling’s “Portrait of a Man”, c. 1470, and a French forged iron “Console Table”, c. 1730-35.

One of my favorite rooms at The Frick has always been the rococo period Boucher Room with its eight canvases, which The Guide says may have originally been for chair covering designs. Children, like miniature adults, are seen in “Fowling and Horticulture”, “Astronomy and Hydraulics”, “Fishing and Hunting”, “Poetry and Music”, “Architecture and Chemistry”, “Singing and Dancing”, “Comedy and Tragedy”, and “Painting and Sculpture”. A large collection of Decorative Art, also in the Boucher Room, includes M. Carlin’s French “Mechanical Reading and Writing Table”, c. 1781, and his “Work and Bed Table”, c. 1770-72, with bookrest, mirror, and storage. In the Dining Room, I stopped by the three Gainsboroughs, including his 1783 “The Mall in St. James Park”. The West Vestibule showcases another set of Bouchers, “The Four Seasons”, 1755. I’ve always loved these upbeat, festive scenes, painted for Mme. De Pompadour.

But, it was the newly reopened and refurbished Fragonard Room, which initially inspired me to schedule this visit. This is the first major relighting and refurbishment of the Fragonard Room in 60 years. The new illumination allowed The Frick to place new decorative art objects alongside the massive Fragonard wall panels, such as the Lepaute clock and a plaster study of “Diana the Huntress” by J-A Houdon, that adorns a French marble commode. The Fragonard Room is known for its sumptuous and romantic panels, called “The Progress of Love”, 1771-73 and 1790-91. Jean-Honoré Fragonard was commissioned by Mme. Du Barry, Louis XV’s mistress, to create four of these panels for her garden pavilion. However, Mme. Du Barry rejected these panels, and they were installed in Fragonard’s cousin’s residence in Grasse, with ten additional panels for walls and over doors. The Frick’s new lighting project, designed by Renfro Design Group, Inc., intends for the viewer to imagine only natural and chandelier lighting exists, rather than lighting from an outside source. A control panel shifts the system’s lighting, as time of day and weather influence natural lighting in the Room.

In the Living Hall, with works by El Greco, H. Holbein the Younger, Titian and Bellini, I’m always drawn to Titian’s “Portrait of a Man in a Red Cap”, c. 1516, plus Holbein the Younger’s pair of portraits of “Sir Thomas More”, 1527, and “Thomas Cromwell”, c. 1532-33, both subjects of the recent play on Broadway, A Man for All Seasons, reviewed in this magazine. The Library has an array of portraits of English Royalty, by artists such as Gainsborough, Sir Joshua Reynolds, and John Constable, plus a Gilbert Stuart “George Washington” portrait, 1795-96. In the North Hall, The Frick presents French landscape, Pre-Impressionism and Impressionism, such as Corot’s “Ville-d’Avray”, c. 1860, an the renowned Frick masterpiece, Ingres’ “Comtesse d’Haussonville”, 1845, with its neo-classical elongation of one arm for visual enhancement. The West Gallery houses European landscapes from the 1500’s (Paolo Veronese) to the 1800’s (Turner). Numerous highlights here include Corot’s “The Lake”, 1861, and Turner’s “The Harbor of Dieppe”, 1826.

An Enamels Room showcases Italian panels and altarpieces from chapels, from the 1400’s, and works from as early as the 1200’s, such as Cimabue’s panel, “The Flagellation of Christ”. The room is kept dim, for obvious preservation reasons, and it never ceases to amaze how the colors and details remain vivid and clear. The Oval Room’s English, French, and Flemish portraits include Renoir’s 1870’s “Mother and Children” and Houdon’s 1776/95 terracotta “Diana the Huntress”. The East Gallery presents a large collection of European and American paintings, spanning three centuries, such as Van Dyck’s “Portrait of a Genoese Noblewoman”, 1622/27, and Whistler’s “Miss Rosa Corder”, 1875-78. The Garden Court is a most bucolic setting, with an indoor pond, and the paintings are also bucolic, such as Corot’s “The Boatman of Mortefontaine”, c. 1865-70. The Music Room, where the concerts are held, is adorned by three panels of “Hollyhocks”, 1790-91, completing the collection of Fragonard’s panels called “The Progress of Love”.

Check out The Frick Collection’s Website to plan your visit very soon. This experience is aesthetically nurturing and transports the visitor to its ambiance of elegance.

The Frick Collection Exterior: Fifth Avenue Garden and Facade.
©The Frick Collection, New York
Photo: Photo: Galen Lee

The Garden Court
©The Frick Collection, New York
Photo: Photo: John Bigelow Taylor

The Grand Staircase
©The Frick Collection, New York
Photo: Photo: John Bigelow Taylor

The Boucher Room
©The Frick Collection, New York
Photo: Photo: Michael Bodycomb

The Fragonard Room
©The Frick Collection, New York
Photo: Michael Bodycomb

The Living Hall
©The Frick Collection, New York
Photo: Photo: Michael Bodycomb

Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot (1796 - 1875),
“The Lake”, 1861.
Oil on canvas, 52 3/8 x 62 inches.
@The Frick Collection, New York

Jacques-Louis David (1748 - 1825),
“Comtesse Daru”, 1810.
Oil on canvas, 32 1/8 x 25 5/8 inches.
@The Frick Collection, New York

Cenni di Pepo called Cimabue,
"The Flagellation of Christ", c. 1280.
Tempera on poplar panel.
@The Frick Collection, New York

Piero della Francesca,
"St. John the Evangelist”, c. 1454-1469.
Tempera on poplar panel.
@The Frick Collection, New York.

François Boucher (1703 – 1770),
“A Lady on Her Day Bed”, 1743.
Oil on canvas, 22 1/2 x 26 7/8 inches.
@The Frick Collection, New York
Courtesy of Michael Bodycomb

Martin Carlin (c. 1730–1785),
"Mechanical Table with Sèvres Porcelain Plaques", c. 1781.
Oak veneered with sycamore maple, inset with plaques of soft-paste
Sèvres porcelain, and mounted with gilt-bronze,
height 45 ¾ x width 14 ⅛ x depth 10 ¾ inches.
©The Frick Collection, New York.

Jean-Honoré Fragonard (1732-1806),
“The Pursuit”, painted between 1771-2.
Oil on canvas, 125 1/8 x 84 7/8 inches.
@The Frick Collection, New York

Jean-Honoré Fragonard (1732 – 1806),
“The Meeting”, painted between 1771-72.
Oil on canvas, height c. 125 inches.
@The Frick Collection, New York

Jean-Honoré Fragonard (1732-1806),
“The Lover Crowned”, painted between 1771-2.
Oil on canvas, 125 1/8 x 95 3/4 inches.
@The Frick Collection, New York

Jean-Honoré Fragonard (1732-1806),
“Lover Letters”, painted between 1771-2.
Oil on canvas, 125 1/8 x 95 3/4 inches.
@The Frick Collection, New York

Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (1780–1867),
“The Comtesse d’Haussonville”, dated 1845.
Oil on canvas, 51 ⅞ x 36 ¼ inches.
©The Frick Collection, New York

Johannes Vermeer (1632–1675),
“Girl Interrupted at Her Music”, c. 1657.
Oil on canvas.
@The Frick Collection, New York

Johannes Vermeer (1632–1675),
“Officer and Laughing Girl”, c. 1658–59.
Oil on canvas.
@The Frick Collection

Johannes Vermeer (1632–1675),
“Mistress and Maid”, c. 1666–67.
Oil on canvas.
@The Frick Collection

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at