Friday, December 17, 2010

The Frick Museum

My favorite museum in New York is not the Metropolitan Museum. Nor is it the Museum of Modern art. Or, for that matter, the Guggenheim, the Whitney, etc.

My favorite museum in New York City is the Frick Museum.

Yesterday, 16th December 2010, was the Frick's 75th anniversary as a museum and was free to the public. Previously it was the mansion of the steel baron Henry Clay Frick who loved art as much as he hated giving money to his workers.

Hateful though this man was to the steelworkers of Pittsburgh back in the 1900's, you have to admire the richness and depth of his taste as a collector as evidenced by his acquisitions.

There's the famous Holbein painting of Sir Thomas More above the fireplace. And the familiar painting of St. Francis in the Desert (actually Tuscany) by Bellini. Add a couple of top-notch Rembrandts, Vermeers, Velasquez, Goyas, El Grecos and Gainboroughs and you have a museum that is well-laid out and viewable in half a day without the visitor incurring art-fatigue or Stendhal's syndrome. It really wasn't a museum, in the first place. It used to be the home of a very wealthy man who just happened to have a great, if conservative, taste in mainly European art. In his will, Mr. Frick stipulated that the paintings should remain where he originally put them and that none should be lent out. Only paintings acquired after his death were allowed to be borrowed by other museums.

My favorite room in this mansion is the one with the four panels by Fragonard depicting the "Progress of Love". You've seen these paintings in reproduction. They were created by Fragonard for Lous IV's mistress, Madame duBarry. They're here in their original settings created for them by Mr. Frick.

Down in the basement was an exhibition of Spanish drawings featuring the works of Ribera, Murillo and Goya. This was in itself worth the visit to the Frick.

Best of all, there is a covered indoor garden with a large marble fountain and a reflecting pool. One can rest here and be soothed by the sound of falling water. Even for a free day, the halls were not crowded because numbers were limited to what the rooms can hold. No jostling or trying to crane one's head above other's .

If there is one museum to visit in New York, and you only had a day to do it, I highly recommend visiting the Frick Museum. You won't regret it.

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