Today I went to the Frick Collection, an art museum on the east side of Central Park and the sort of place that features on tourist ‘to do’ lists. But while it’s a famous spot, I had zero idea what would be inside.
After enduring a queue that snaked around the block, I donned a self-guide headset and soon learned that its former owner, industrialist Henry Clay Frick, had built and lived in the property but had always planned for it to be a gallery.
When he died in 1919, he willed the house and all of its contents to become a museum for the public. And so that his dream could be realized, architect John Russell Pope enlarged some of the ground floor and built a large gallery room before it finally opened to the public in 1935. This history means that the ground floor – where the museum is situated – has both the feeling of an intimate residence and a sprawling gallery.
(I also learned that ‘drawing room’ was named after the fact that women would ‘withdraw’ from men after dinner and socialize there. Am I the only one who didn’t know that? I always thought it had something to do with easels and pencils.)
Hanging in the grand rooms were some amazing pieces – I particularly loved the Rembrandts and Turners lining the main gallery. There was also a special exhibit of Dutch masters, which featured Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring. While I wasn’t allowed to take a picture, I can say that – as is always the case with the world’s greatest art works – it was very, very mini.
What was also interesting, having visited the Morgan Library last weekend, was that a lot of the collection had been bought from J.P. Morgan’s son after his father’s death. I’d not really considered that some of Morgan’s collection could have been sold off, so it was interesting to see that it was probably much, much vaster than I’d previously thought.
The museum isn’t huge and at $20 I think admission is a little steep, especially because I wasn’t even there for two hours. It is such a shame we couldn’t browse upstairs too (the family lived on the second floor and their 27 servants were on the third floor), because that house fascinated me. As with the Morgan property, I loved thinking about living in the house during Olde New York – waking up to see the park opposite, shielding yourself from the noise of the city with those thick walls.
The gallery had some pretty great views of the changing colours of the leaves, so once I was done ogling those rooms, I decided to check out the park.
I love you, New York!
The Frick Collection, which is on East 70th Street and Fifth Ave, is open 10am – 6pm on Tuesdays through Saturdays and 10am – 5pm on Sundays. Admission is $20 or $10 for students or $15 for seniors.