Sunday, February 27, 2011
If you are a fan of Rembrandt (they currently have both the Self-Portrait of 1658 (see right) and the The Polish Rider on display plus an extensive collection of sketches and etchings for a special exhibition) or Vermeer (recently re-famous for the portrait of the Girl with the Pearl Earring a la the movie with Scarlet Johannson), then the Frick Museum is for you (www.frick.org). What is unique about this museum is that it was built as a luxurious private home with plans to convert the home into a public museum. The art is not organized by era, style, or artist. The collection is displayed as it was during Henry Clay Frick's lifetime, and it is extraordinarily grand and homey at the same time (you are welcome to sit on chairs and benches that look like they could be part of the collection, so long as they are not roped off).
As you go through the mansion, you can't help but feel privileged to be able to wander through this mansion and enjoy all the paintings (mostly portraits and landscapes), decorative furniture (much of it designed by Andre Charles Boulle, cabinet maker for Louis XIV at Versailles), and Florentine bronze sculptures. There are a couple of rooms that have completely encompassing, panels painted with idyllic scenes of romance and children exploring the arts and sciences. The iconic Jean-Honore Fragonard (see left) and Francois Boucher rooms are masterpieces of 18th century French art, and just being in them takes you back in time with a sense of how nobility must have lived.
I visited the museum today, a Sunday, when the museum is open on a "pay what you wish" basis from 11-1p. Otherwise admittance for adults is $18, $12 for seniors, and $5 for students. I think that it would have been very tranquil if there weren't so many people crowded around. If you are on a budget, visiting on a Sunday makes sense, but if you can spare it, other times may be more pleasurable. In any event, I would definitely recommend using the free self-directed audio guides, which not only provide insights and histories about the art and artists but also detail stories about the subjects in many of the art pieces, as well as watching the film about the life of Henry Clay Frick (who came from a working class family with little formal education to become a titan of industry in coke as well as a great collector of quality art) that they show every half hour. Both resources bring the collection to life.