Roberta on the Arts
A Summer Visit to the Galleries of The Frick Collection
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A Summer Visit to the Galleries of The Frick Collection

- In the Galleries: Arts and Education


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A Summer Visit to the Galleries of
The Frick Collection
(Frick Collection Website)
1 East 70th Street
NYC, NY 10121
212.288.0700

Press: mediarelations@frick.org


Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
August 21, 2014


(See a 2008 Tour of The Frick Collection)

(Review Generously Assisted by The Frick Collection: A Guide to Works of Art on Exhibition, 2012).

Visiting The Frick, as it’s usually called, is always a memorable and sumptuous experience. The entire Frick Collection, amassed by Henry Clay Frick (1849-1919), which remains housed in the exquisite Frick mansion at Fifth Avenue at 70th Street, is organized through numerous, inviting galleries. A book, “A Guide To Works of Art On Exhibition”, is revised every few years to update any shifts in placement of paintings and sculptures. For example, the Pierre-Auguste Renoir, "Mother and Children (The Promenade)” is now at the foot of the grand staircase, and the Domenikos Theotokopoulos El Greco, “Vincenzo Anastagi”, is now paired, in special exhibition through October 26, 2014, with the Scipione Pulzone, “Portrait of Jacopo Boncompagni”. Also, the glass-walled Portico Gallery, housing the special exhibition, “Enlightenment and Beauty: Sculptures by Houdon and Clodion”, opened only in 2011, is pristine and enhanced with sunlight. The Frick Shop was, on this visit, under renovation, but one can still find delightful souvenir books and stationary, among elegant gifts. There’s no café or bar located in the mansion, but walking to Madison Avenue cafés on quiet, tree-lined streets, is very pleasant.

The two special exhibitions, small and fascinating, were metaphors for the Collection, as one can actually explore this entire museum in a one-day visit, unlike the larger museums along Fifth Avenue’s Museum Mile. The “Men in Armor: El Greco and Pulzone Face To Face” consists of just the two paintings, placed side by side. The Anastagi painting, from circa 1575, celebrated now in honor of 400 years since El Greco’s death, shows his prominent subject with a helmet (on the floor), in olive green velvet attire. Light shining from an off-canvas window is caught on the shoulder armor, and a gold-tipped sword is slung on the viewer’s right. The subject is intense, in a full-length study, hands on hips, with gold-threaded ornamentation on the ballooned, knee-length pants. The white-stockinged calves are muscular, and, in spite of a white ruffled neckpiece, the beard and mustache adorn a man in military stance. The Boncompagni painting, from circa 1574, on loan from a Private Collection, ends at the bottom torso, in close-up view. The subject has a more casual expression than Anastagi, with a slight smile. The armor is more elaborate, appearing in black, brown, and gold, with refined ornamentation. His hips are adorned with additional heavy fabric, and he holds a wooden tube for formal letters, as well as a paper with the name of the artist and subject. A burgundy side table holds his matching armored helmet and gloves, while a velvet, draped curtain appears rear right, filling the painting with luxury.

The second special exhibition, in the Portico Gallery, “Enlightenment and Beauty: Sculptures by Houdon and Clodion”, is adorned with grassy, garden views through the large glass walls. Frick notes indicate that the exhibit includes works from The Frick Collection as well as from Private Collections. Carved marble figures by Jean-Antoine Houdon include the 1775 “Madame His” and the 1777 “Armand-Thomas Hue, Marquis de Miromesnil". Both sculptures are from the Frick Collection. The Marquis, a Minister of Justice, is sculpted in robes and wig, suggesting the role of magistrate. The Claude Michel Clodion work, that most intrigued me, is his 1788 “The Dance of Time: Three Nymphs Supporting a Clock by (Jean Baptiste) Lepaute”, also from The Frick Collection. Time passes through a three-dimensional glass circle across large Roman numerals, indicating time. The stationary nymphs appear suspended, in motion, as they reach to hold the circular clock. It’s a large piece, and riveting to observe.

Rooms and works illustrated below were chosen from today’s afternoon-early eve tour. I was also able to watch films (shown in the theater throughout the day) about Henry Clay Frick, his family, his mansion, and the two special exhibitions mentioned above. Some of the Frick galleries are expansive, like the West Gallery, and some are tiny, like the Boucher Room. From the Foot of the Stairs and Landing, one can only dream of hearing the grand Aeolian Pipe Organ, that remains silent, due to need of repair. What an experience that would be, strolling the Frick, amidst such majestic music. Most viewing spaces in The Frick include a comfortable bench and window garden views, and all galleries are on the main floor. In the Fragonard Room, one of my favorites, one can see four paintings, commissioned by Madame du Barry, for her garden pavilion. When she changed her mind, Fragonard gave them to his cousin, along with extra side pieces. They were later purchased by J. Pierpont Morgan, for his home in London. These romantic scenes are ebullient and perfumy. Also romanticized is James McNeill Whistler’s 1871-74 “Symphony in Flesh Colour and Pink: Portrait of Mrs. Frances Leyland”, in which she’s attired in a silky-chiffony, flower-embroidered dress, which Whistler specifically designed, matching florals in the painting’s backdrop.

Thomas Gainsborough’s 1783 “The Mall in St. James Park” shows well-dressed ladies strolling, but, on close view, one can see glares and glances shared between some, suggesting gossip or jealousy or scandal, in the slightest whiff of drama. Gainsborough’s 1777 “The Hon. Frances Duncombe”, on the other hand, a commissioned portrait, is painted with an idyllic background, with the subject in a long, blue, satin, low-necked gown, with angelic expressiveness. Thomas Lawrence’s 1827 “Julia, Lady Peel”, another commissioned portrait, exemplifies wealth and status, with heavy jewelry, furs, and feathers. The subject looks confident and content. Joseph Chinard’s 1809 terracotta sculpture, “Portrait of Louis-Étienne Vincent-Marniola”, was mesmerizing with the level of sculpted detail in the lace fabric of the neck piece, in the hair curls, tassels, and shape of the collar. This appears to be a commissioned sculpture, and, on research, seems to have been timed to the subject’s appointment as a member of France’s Conseil d’État. A tour of the Frick Collection is educational and inspirational, a relaxing oasis in Manhattan. There’s even a Garden Court, with a working fountain, plantings, and benches for rest and reflection.



The Frick Collection Exterior:
Fifth Avenue Garden and Facade (looking toward 71st Street)
The Frick Collection, New York
Courtesy of Michael Bodycomb




The Grand Staircase
The Frick Collection, New York
Courtesy of Michael Bodycomb




Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919)
"Mother and Children (La Promenade)", c. 1875-76
Oil on canvas, 67 x 42 inches
The Frick Collection, New York
Courtesy of Michael Bodycomb




The West Gallery
The Frick Collection, New York
Courtesy of Michael Bodycomb




The Fragonard Room
The Frick Collection, New York
Courtesy of Michael Bodycomb




El Greco (1541-1614)
"Vincenzo Anastagi", c. 1575
Oil on canvas, 74 x 49 inches
The Frick Collection, New York
Courtesy of Michael Bodycomb




Scipione Pulzone (c. 1540/42-98)
"Jacopo Boncompagni", c. 1574
Oil on canvas, 48 x 39 inches
Private collection, courtesy of Jean-Luc Baroni Ltd.
Courtesy of Michael Bodycomb




Jean-Antoine Houdon (1741-1828)
"Madame His", 1775
Marble, 31 ½ x 17 x 12 ½ inches
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Eugene Victor Thaw
The Frick Collection, New York
Courtesy of Michael Bodycomb




Jean-Antoine Houdon (1741-1828)
"Armand-Thomas Hue, Marquis de Miromesnil", 1777
Marble, 25 ½ inches high
The Frick Collection, New York
Courtesy of Michael Bodycomb




Claude Michel Clodion (1738-1814), sculptor,
Jean-Baptiste Lepaute (1727-1802), clockmaker
"The Dance of Time, Three Nymphs Supporting a Clock", 1788
Terracotta, 40 ¾ inches high
Purchased by The Frick Collection through the Winthrop Kellogg Edey Bequest
The Frick Collection, New York
Courtesy of Michael Bodycomb




James Abbott McNeill Whistler (1834-1903)
"Symphony in Flesh Colour and Pink:
Portrait of Mrs. Frances Leyland", 1871-74
Oil on canvas, 77 x 40 ¼ inches
The Frick Collection, New York
Courtesy of Michael Bodycomb




Thomas Gainsborough (1727-1788)
"The Mall in St. James's Park", c. 1783
Oil on canvas, 47 ½ x 57 7/8 inches
The Frick Collection, New York
Courtesy of Michael Bodycomb




Thomas Gainsborough (1727-1788)
"The Hon. Frances Duncombe", 1777
Oil on canvas, 92 ¼ x 61 1/8 inches
The Frick Collection, New York
Courtesy of Michael Bodycomb




Sir Thomas Lawrence (1769-1830)
"Julia, Lady Peel", 1827
Oil on canvas, 35 3/4 x 27 7/8 inches
The Frick Collection, New York
Courtesy of Michael Bodycomb




Joseph Chinard (1756-1813)
"Portrait of Louis-Étienne Vincent-Marniola", 1809
Terracotta, 25 ¼ x 25 ¼ x 14 7/8 inches
The Frick Collection, New York
Courtesy of Michael Bodycomb



For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at zlokower@bestweb.net