Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Frick Collection

Mistress and Maid, 1666-1667 (Zoomable Image )
I am a museum junkie. I spent three glorious weeks in New York City this summer and went to about a dozen different museums. My favorite museum on this trip was the Frick Collection. I visited it three times as various members of my family floated in and out of the city. The museum is in Mr. Frick’s mansion and it houses only the artwork that Mr. Frick himself collected. He had excellent, consistent taste in art which is very well described in the audio tour. In my humble opinion, his collection rivals any museum’s carefully-curated art exhibition. Visiting the museum is a wonderful experience because the mansion is glorious, it is never very crowder there, and the collection is small and very accessible.
I am a huge Johannes Vermeer fan and this museum has three, count them: three!!! I think there are only about 35 known Vermeers in existence. The Frick beautifully displays its three prize possessions side-by-side in the vestibule in front of the staircase. I was familiar with the two smaller ones because they are often seen in print, but the largest one, named Mistress and Maid, I had never seen before.
It is believed to be unfinished, which added to my enjoyment because there was no background to distract from the portraits. It was Frickin’ gorgeous! Breathtaking – literally!
Here are the two smaller paintings:


There was also a fantastic large painting of St. Francis of Assissi by Giovanni Bellini (c. 1430 - 1516) with beautiful colors:


My family and I had the great fortune of going to Assissi in 2005. It was singularly the most inspirational Italian village we ever visited. This painting sent me sailing back to that glorious day we spent there.

The room that housed this painting also had other interesting portrait choices. Frick seemed to enjoy juxtaposing dark and light portraits painted by the same artist in the same room. In this room, he paired dark and light personalities.

In another room he had a pair of very dark full-length portraits by James Abbott McNeill Whistler (1834 - 1903) on one wall:


and on the opposite wall was a pair of very light pastel-colored full-length portraits also by Whistler:


The contrast was powerful. I heard somewhere that Frick was one of the most hated men in NYC in his day. His choices of art probably reflect his complex personality.

If you’re ever in New York City, make some time to visit the Frick Collection.

9 comments:

Paris Parfait said...

I, too, am a fan of the Frick - and Vermeer! Hope I have time to visit this trip, although it's a quick two days and fairly jam-packed! Thanks for the suggestion.

A Cuban In London said...

Excellent post. I love Vermeer's works and recently there was a controversy surrounding his 'Girl with a Pearl Earring' painting. Apparently it was his daughter who sat for the portrait.

Greetings from London.

Relyn said...

Have you seen Whistler's Peacock Room in DC? It is amazing. I know it would take your breath away.

Jonathan Janson said...

I totally agree with you about the Frick Collection and it seems ironic that when you Google Frick’s full name you come up with a rather ungrateful “was an American industrialist and art patron, once known as "America's most hated man."

Glad you liked the Girl Interrupted in her Music which is generally neglected by most. It has suffered some bad restorations, especially in the clothing but the atmosphere is still intense.

I was there in late August and lost my heart again to the Officer and Laughing Girl.

dutchbaby said...

Dear Paris Parfait,
Only two days? That's like saying you only have two days in Paris! Decisions, decisions! Have a grand time!

Dear Cuban,
Your comment caused me to dive into Google. She would have only been twelve. Very interesting premise! Happy Birthday!

Dear Relyn,
I did indeed, but only oh so briefly! It was breathtaking. Washington DC is a museum junkie's haven isn't it?

Dear Jonathan,
Welcome to my blog!

It's very sad about Mr. Frick isn't it? He must have been a tortured soul.

I'm so glad you explained about the restoration of Girl Interrupted in her Music. Sometimes I see a painting attributed to Vermeer and wonder; I never took in consideration that it might have been a victim of poor restoration!

I love your website and I plan to return often!

Something White said...

Dear Dutchbaby, als ik het goed begrijp, ben jij een Nederlandse die in de States woont? Nice to meet you! Het lijkt me een groot en interessant avontuur te zijn om naar het buitenland te emigreren! Maar misschien woon je er al zo lang en ben je al zodanig helemaal ingeburgerd ginds dat de ´nieuwigheid´ er af is? :)
Ik ben vooral geraakt door de kleuren in Vermeer´s werken en ik heb bewondering voor de regisseur van de film ´Girl with a Pearl Earring´, die erin geslaagd is om diezelfde kleuren in zijn film te vangen.
Always feel welcome at Something White, hartelijke groeten uit Belgiƫ, Marjolijn

dutchbaby said...

Dear Marjolijn,

Juist, ik kwam naar Californie in '66 toen is elf jaar oud was. Echt een hele lange tijd geleden en dat is waarom mijn Nederlands zo ouderwets en slordig is. Nice to meet you too!

Ik ben in eens met je, Vermeer's kleuren zijn echt een bewondering. Beide de boek en de film "Girl with a Pearl Earring" zijn mijn favorite (lieveling? - hoe zegt men dat in Hollands?) De eerste fan brief die ik ooit in mijn leven had geschreven was aan Tracy Chevalier - ik vond het boek zo wonderlijk.

Hartelijk bedankt voor het bezoek naar mijn blog! Vergeet niet om naar de vier quilt posts te kijken. Er is een label aan de rechterkant van deze pagina.

Best,
Diana

jtroth said...

Diana, this is a wonderful post. I have been told by so many people that I simply HAVE TO go to the Frick, and fully plan to the next time I make it to NYC. I am so interested in your comments about Frick's juxtaposition of light and dark in his choices about where to hang what.

I look forward to reading more of your writing.

All my best, Janet

dutchbaby said...

Hello Janet,

Thanks for visiting my blog. I hope you do go to the Frick; I look forward to your post :-)

When you go, be sure to get the tape tour, it discusses more juxtapositions of portraits in the room where the St. Francis of Asssissi painting is hung.

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