A New Handbook Of Collection Highlights Has Been Published In Conjunction With A Major Exhibition That Celebrates The Works Of Fine And Decorative Arts At The Heart Of The Frick Experience
This fall the exhibition galleries at The Frick Art Museum are being taken over by the permanent collection for the first exhibition in eight years to focus exclusively on the works of fine and decorative art in the collection of the Frick Art & Historical Center (The Frick Pittsburgh). The Frick Collects: From Rubens to Monet celebrates the works of fine and decorative art at the heart of the Frick experience. The exhibition will remain on view through May 14, 2017. Admission is free.
Located on the Pittsburgh estate of late-19th-century industrialist Henry Clay Frick, The Frick Pittsburgh is the steward of collections left as a legacy to the people of Pittsburgh by Frick’s daughter, Helen Clay Frick. The permanent collections include fine and decorative arts, cars, carriages, historic objects, and buildings. The Frick experience includes The Frick Art Museum, the Car and Carriage Museum, Clayton, the Frick family Gilded Age mansion, and six acres of beautifully landscaped lawns and gardens. Also included are an Education Center, the Frick children’s playhouse (designed by renowned architects Alden & Harlow), a large working greenhouse (also designed by Alden & Harlow), The Café at the Frick, and the Grable Visitor Center, which houses the Frick Museum Store. (More information is available online at www.TheFrickPittsburgh.org.)
From Henry Clay Frick’s early purchases, to his daughter Helen’s collecting interests, through to the acquisitions that have been made by the museum in recent years, (through this exhibition) visitors will see and learn about the enduring legacy of the Frick family as art collectors. Objects will be brought together to tell a unified story—a story that doesn’t stop with Henry Clay Frick’s early purchases for Clayton, but continues, looking at both Henry and Helen as the collectors who have shaped the Frick Art & Historical Center’s holdings.
The earliest acquisitions in the collection date to Henry Clay Frick’s bachelor days. Before his marriage (and for the first months after his marriage) he lived in downtown Pittsburgh at the fashionable Monongahela House. He bought his first paintings and decorative objects for his rooms there: an elaborate rococo revival clock and candelabra set purchased through Tiffany’s, an ebonized cabinet, and his first documented painting purchase, a landscape by local artist George Hetzel.
When they moved into Clayton, Henry Clay Frick and his wife furnished it as many young couples do—most of the purchases were new, fashionable and of the period. Frick had met his wife, Adelaide Howard Childs (1859-1931) in February 1881. Adelaide was the sixth daughter of the wealthy Pittsburgh Childs family, who were manufacturers and importers of shoes and boots. For young couples during America’s Gilded Age like the Fricks, art collecting was not simply a way to exercise taste and create a suitable environment—although these were important considerations. More subtly the right objects gave their owner a sense of history and pedigree. Collecting was a personal pleasure and an indicator of status, discernment and good taste.
The rise in American collecting of this period also coincided with the establishment of the first museums in the country, including the Wadsworth Athenaeum of Hartford, Connecticut in 1842, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston in 1870, New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1872, and in 1896, Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Institute. As the century progressed, forming collections and bequeathing them to the public became one way to put wealth and the accumulation of a collection to public service.
It was Helen Clay Frick’s vision that led to the restoration of Clayton as a house museum. The Frick Art Museum, which was opened to the public in 1970 just a block south of Clayton, was built primarily for the collection she developed, rather than the one she inherited. Helen even had the family cars and carriages carefully preserved and brought back to Pittsburgh from the family’s Massachusetts summer estate. Continue reading