A ren’t we all grateful to philanthropists who actually care about the legacy they leave for the future? I am confident that is the case with Henry Clay Frick (1849-1919), the leading steel industrialist of his day. He not only left a remarkable testament to architecture with his home at 1 East 70th St. in New York City, but he managed to amass one of the finest collections of art, from paintings to sculpture and textiles to porcelain.
It has been said that his collection and planned philanthropy inspired Andrew Mellon to create the National Gallery of Art in Washington. D.C. with the express purpose of inheriting Frick’s collection! It has also been said that Frick inspired collectors of the day to accumulate works from Old Masters and fine porcelains and tapestries.
The architectural firm of Carrère & Hastings designed this manse, constructed between 1913 and 1914, for the sum of $5 million! Frick’s request was to have the home designed not only to display his art work, but also as his New York residence. Unfortunately, he enjoyed it for only five years before his death at age 70. But showing great foresight, Frick planned for his home to become a public museum after he and his wife died (in 1931), just as the Marquess of Hertford had done with his London mansion!
The collection now holds more than 1,100 pieces, two-thirds of it from art Frick left behind. After Mrs. Frick’s death, a $15 million trust was established for the maintenance of the collection and any improvements the board of trustees deemed necessary. Since December of 1935, when the Frick Collection opened to the general public, there have been additions to the house for gallery and lecture space, as well as an enclosed courtyard.
This is truly one of the leading small museums in the world, with some of the most important pieces of art known to man in the collection. You need only mention the names Bellini, Boucher, Corot, Gainsborough, El Greco, Goya, Rembrandt, Turner and Whistler to realize how impressive the holdings are. Each room embraces all your senses (except touch, as that is a no-no!) and transports you to a time when people took great pride in their talents and the fruit of their efforts, a time when the joy their largesse brought to others meant more than the absolute figures.
For more information go to frick.org