I am slightly embarrassed to think I have lived in NYC for nearly 10 years, and it was only on the weekend that I first visited the Frick Museum. I knew of it’s existence, and had occasionally considered their musical soirees and exhibitions, but not enough to encourage my next step towards East 70th and Fifth. What made the difference was the arrival of Van Gogh’s Portrait of a Peasant for a limited viewing. So Sean and I joined the queue on Sunday morning and were pleasantly surprised to find much more than the Dutch master on view.
The fantastic thing about the Frick is that to visit the museum is to visit a private residence, and a very grand one. The public rooms including the library, the dining room and the gallery are splendidly styled after Louise XVI with marble floors, oak paneled walls and gilt moldings. But rather than being ostentatious, it’s more of a refined showcase for the art – everything is about the art. Well, and showing off of course. Apparently Mr Frick was quite determined to make Mr Carnegie’s house down the street look like a shack by comparison. So the minute you walk in you feel you should have worn a cocktail dress because drinks are about to be served. Not to mention trend-setting food – the kitchen below was led by a French chef who set a standard for very superior sup before racing off to fight for his homeland in World War One. Actually I probably wouldn’t have been invited in the day – it seems only men were invited, there were usually 2 dinner parties a week and each was attended by 26 males. No doubt there was serious men’s business to discuss – this was the era of industrialization, making money unscrupulously and avoiding assassination attempts. Frick did all these things, but lucky for us, he not only collected art, but he left it for everyone to enjoy.
The collection of art itself is breathtaking especially when you consider that Mr Frick chose what he liked and then found a place for it on the wall. The Museum has continued this cherry picking since his death. So there is a seaside Monet, a Rembrandt, Degas dancers, Turner, Constable, Picasso, painted wall panels originally commissioned by Madame Pompadour, sculptures and all sorts of treasures. Mr Frick so loved his art that he would have his favorite pieces transported with him to his holiday homes.
What wasn’t on display but is an interesting feature that anyone would be familiar with if they had seen the movie ‘There will be Blood’, is the two lane bowling alley in which Daniel Day Lewis wasn’t very sporting. Similarly the billiard room and the kitchen were off bounds – I will have to join the staff if I want to experience the downstairs quarters. But I will make plans to visit the music room, and I know I could spend many hours enjoying the peaceful inside courtyard, with foliage, fountain and marble meditation.
No photography was allowed in the museum, so I only have copies to share. If you want the real thing, you’ll have to go the Frick…