Treasures of New York

FULL EPISODE

The Frick Collection

Treasures of New York: The Frick Collection takes you on an intimate, behind-the-scenes tour of this Gilded Age house museum dedicated to Old Master paintings, notable bronzes, sculpture, and the decorative arts. The film explores the excellence in taste and preservation of these works, the family behind the collection, and the instiutions history and dedication to art scholarship.

AIRED: February 22, 2018 | 0:26:40
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TRANSCRIPT

♪♪

>> Step inside the lavish,

Gilded Age home of one of

America's wealthiest families

and behold an astounding

collection of treasured

masterpieces.

>> It's a synergistic

combination of great works

of art displayed in a very

intimate residential setting.

>> A world-class private

collection that welcomes people

from New York and around

the world.

>> Henry Clay Frick wanted

the collection to be available

to the public.

>> It is a remarkable story

of incredible wealth

and unprecedented generosity,

inspiring generations of

art enthusiasts.

>> I think that the old masters

have important lessons

for the present and for

the future.

>> Get an inside look at one

of New York's most beloved

museums in

"Treasures of New York:

The Frick Collection."

♪♪

This program is made possible

by...

The Jerome L. Greene Foundation.

♪♪

♪♪

>> The Frick is a totality

of atmosphere where you're swept

into a kind of historical

imagination of what it would be

like to live here, to be

surrounded by beauty every day.

♪♪

When you say you work at

The Frick or have you been

to The Frick, either people

haven't heard of The Frick,

or they say, "I love The Frick.

It's my most favorite museum."

>> It's a museum that began

as someone's house and private

collection.

People love to come in to have

the double advantage of seeing

how people lived in a particular

era in New York in

the Gilded Age, as well as

looking at great works of art.

>> It's a place of palatial

grandeur, which, at the same

time, provides a form of

intimacy and serenity

in looking at works of art.

Unlike most of the museums

in New York, which has visitors,

when you enter The Frick,

you feel as a guest.

♪♪

>> Guests of

The Frick Collection are invited

to step back in time

into the Gilded Age world

of Henry Clay Frick

and the works of art

he so deeply loved.

>> The Frick Collection is very

much the vision of one man, of

Henry Clay Frick, and it's about

his taste in great masterpieces.

>> Celebrated masterpieces

that guide hundreds of thousands

of visitors each year on

a journey of tranquility

and contemplation.

♪♪

>> When people come in here,

they often are as if going

through a magic looking glass.

They come into a place

which each person can find

something new, can find

something that might touch them

that's unlike the average

museum.

>> Within this Upper East Side

mansion hangs some of the most

outstanding examples of European

art in America --

paintings by Goya...

Turner...

and Renoir, to name a few.

>> The Frick is not an

encyclopedic museum, so there

are many artists that are not

represented here, but whenever

we have works by great artists

like Rembrandt, like Holbein,

like Vermeer, we tend to have

some of their best works.

>> It is a striking anthology

of masterpieces that Frick

wanted to share with the public.

>> Mr. Frick, in his will,

wanted the museum -- the house,

the collection -- to be open

to the public and to encourage

a study of the arts.

>> By opening his home

to the public,

Henry Clay Frick set

the museum's educational mission

into motion, and his daughter

Helen carried on that legacy.

A collector in her own right,

Helen solidified the museum's

role as a renowned center

of scholarship and education.

Since 1935, The Frick Collection

has stood as a beacon of

culture, encouraging visitors

of all ages to surround

themselves with some of

the world's greatest

masterpieces, just as Frick

himself did over 100 years ago.

But Henry Clay Frick was not

raised in a home of luxury

and wealth.

He was born in 1849 in rural

western Pennsylvania.

His father was an immigrant

farmer, and his mother

the daughter of a whiskey

distiller.

With an eye for opportunity,

Henry made a name for himself

in the growing Pittsburgh

steel industry by producing

a key ingredient needed

to manufacture iron and steel

called coke.

>> Within a few years,

he had a monopoly,

so 80% of the best coking

operation in the United States.

♪♪

>> Henry Clay Frick was

a millionaire by age 30.

In 1882, Frick entered

a business partnership

with steel magnate

Andrew Carnegie, solidifying

Frick's position as a titan

of America's industrial era.

Frick married

Adelaide Howard Childs,

daughter of a prominent

Pittsburgh family.

The two shared a love of art.

>> He began collecting as a very

young man.

He's said to have been

collecting prints already

when he was in his 20s, so even

though he had very little formal

education, he seems to have had

a sixth sense for art

and the quality of art.

>> While his tastes changed

over time, by middle age,

Frick began to favor old-master

paintings.

>> He really didn't focus on

old masters until he was nearly

50 years old.

His first significant old-master

purchase was a portrait of an

artist that was then believed

to be by Rembrandt.

So this is what set him off

on this new path.

>> This new path was part

of a monumental transfer

of significant works

to the New World.

Frick and his contemporaries,

such as Andrew Carnegie

and J.P. Morgan, used their

extraordinary wealth to purchase

some of the highest-quality

pieces on the market in Europe.

>> There is this cartoon

of J.P. Morgan holding a giant

magnet from the United States

across the Atlantic, so it was

a great moment for the growth

of cultural collections

in the United States.

>> Just as Frick's art

collection grew, so, too,

did his family.

He and Adelaide had four

children together.

Only two, Childs and Helen,

survived to adulthood,

with Helen becoming her father's

close companion.

At the turn of the 20th Century,

Frick moved his family

from Pittsburgh to Manhattan,

a bustling hub of industry

during America's Gilded Age.

Just like the Vanderbilts

and the Astors, Frick set out

to build a home on Fifth Avenue.

He hired Thomas Hastings

of the prominent architecture

firm Carrère and Hastings,

designers of

the New York Public Library.

Construction on the neoclassical

mansion began in 1913.

The home was built to stretch

an entire city block

and accommodate extravagances

such as a grand organ

built into the staircase

and a bowling alley

in the basement.

But when it came to style,

Frick instructed that his house

be kept "simple, in good taste,

and not ostentatious."

Frick centered the home

around his growing art

collection with as much space

for the pictures as possible.

Everything down to the paneling

was designed to highlight

the prized collection

of masterpieces he had spent

years acquiring --

masters like Titian

of the Venetian School,

El Greco of

the Spanish Renaissance,

and Johannes Vermeer

of the Dutch Golden Age.

Frick collected some of

the finest pieces from these

artists, with a preference

for portraits and landscapes.

>> These are all pictures

that are livable with,

that you can spend time with,

and that are not shocking

or provocative in any way.

So a Frick picture, I would say,

it's something that is calm

and elegant and of extreme

beauty.

>> Everything is organized here

according to aesthetic

principles rather than didactic.

Schools are intermixed,

but everything fits together

quite harmoniously.

He was not trying to fill in

gaps or to have a complete

history of Western art.

He collected what he liked,

what was the very best

on the market at that time --

works that were in excellent

condition and works that had

a stellar provenance.

>> Our two Veroneses,

for example, have several royal

provenances.

They were owned by

the Holy Roman Emperor

Rudolf II, Queen Christina

of Sweden, and then they were in

the Duc d'Orléans' collection.

>> A sight of elegance

and refinement,

the central Living Hall

was designed to elevate

some of Frick's highest-quality

paintings.

>> One of the great works here

is the Bellini "St. Francis,"

which everyone always says

is probably the best Italian

painting in America, if not

outside of Italy.

It's a rare picture for Frick

to have bought because it has

a religious subject matter,

but when you look at it,

you suddenly realize that,

in a way, it is both a landscape

and a portrait more than

a religious picture.

It is about the combination

of these two things --

human being at the center

of nature, which I think

is what Frick would have loved

about the picture.

>> Across the room is another

celebrated work --

Hans Holbein the Younger's

16th Century portrait

of Sir Thomas More,

the English counselor

to King Henry VIII, painted

before More was later canonized

as a Catholic saint.

>> His Catholic beliefs,

his martyrdom, his becoming

a saint -- all of that is a way

in which we look at Thomas More

now, but when Holbein painted

him in 1527, none of that story

was part of it.

So this is really a portrait

of a great scholar and a great

intellectual of the time,

and it is a great combination,

also, of Northern art and

Italian art in terms of style

at that time.

So I think it's one of Holbein's

greatest works in America,

if notthe greatest work.

>> A majestic room frozen

in time, the Living Hall

displays these paintings

exactly as it did for

the Frick family a century ago.

>> Frick liked things he could

live with.

He often asked dealers to have

a work of art on loan

to the house for a while

before he would purchase it,

and sometimes he would live

with it for months, a year

before acquiring it or sending

it back to the dealer.

The Collection is about

the great works of art

in The Collection, but it's

also about the ambiance

and the house, and I think

we have to remember that we're

a house museum.

We're not just a museum

that is in any building.

It would be very difficult

to move these works of art

and give them a sense

as the The Frick Collection

somewhere else.

So it's about the way in which

Frick wanted the pictures to be

displayed.

It's about how one can look

at them and explore them

throughout the house.

The quietness, the calm

of the house is very much part

of the character of it

and is very much part of

the visitor experience.

>> Frick also acquired striking

furniture and decorative

objects that would complement

his beloved paintings.

Some of the decorative works

came from a fellow industrialist

and art collector in 1915.

>> J.P. Morgan had just died,

and his entire collection

of over 4,000 works of art

was on exhibit at

the Metropolitan Museum.

So, sort of crudely put,

Frick and his wife could,

in a sense, go shopping

at this exhibition of Morgan's

works of art, and we do have

spectacular masterpieces --

the Riesener commode

and secretary that was made

for Marie Antoinette.

Most of the Chinese porcelains,

the Renaissance bronzes,

the Limoges enamels were

purchased from the Morgan

estate.

>> One acquisition from

the Morgan estate far exceeded

the cost of any other purchase

Frick had made to date.

For his drawing room,

Frick bought a dramatic set

of panels that cost a total

of $1.25 million -- equal

to a staggering $30 million

today.

>> Frick manages to buy these

canvases, "The Progress of Love"

by Fragonard, and so suddenly

this room, now called

The Fragonard Room, changes

drastically.

>> The ornate panels were

originally commissioned

for the chateau of the mistress

of King Louis XV.

Frick reconstructed his entire

drawing room to accommodate

these works and purchased

furniture and ceramics to match,

making the room, as a whole,

a work of art.

>> Walking into that Room

of Fragonard is just so utterly

delightful, and it doesn't have

its equivalent, really, anywhere

else.

The combination of

the decorative arts --

porcelain, bronzes, furniture --

with the pictures brings back

a living environment, and one

feels very privileged to be able

to share it with the ghost

of Mr. Frick, if you will.

♪♪

>> Frick lived in the home

for only five years

until his death in 1919.

In his will, he gifted

$117 million to the public,

including his home and art

collection.

His donation was the largest

single bequest to the public

in American history and would

equal around $1.7 billion today.

>> His wife, Adelaide,

continued to live in this house

until her death in 1931,

and at that time,

the Frick family

and the trustees had the charge

of putting his will into effect,

to turning what was a private

house into a public museum.

>> For this endeavor,

the trustees hired legendary

architect John Russell Pope.

In order to accommodate

a public audience, Pope expanded

the gallery spaces and converted

the driveway into an elegant

enclosed courtyard.

The museum opened to the public

in 1935 to great fanfare

16 years after Frick's death.

Frick's daughter Helen helped

to carry on her father's wishes

for the collection.

She had developed her love

and knowledge of art alongside

her father.

>> Helen Clay Frick was very

close to her father and shared

his passion for art

and art collecting.

She was a collector herself.

They both certainly had

a philanthropic impulse

in that way.

Frick served on a number

of boards of art organizations,

as did Helen.

Helen herself was instrumental

in growing

the Fine Arts Department

at the University of Pittsburgh,

so they certainly did want

people to gain from their

knowledge of art, and it is

written in Frick's will

that the encouragement of

the study of the fine arts and

kindred subjects was something

that he wanted the institution

he founded to carry forward.

>> After Frick's death,

Helen led The Collection's

Art Acquisition Committee

and purchased some of the pieces

for which The Frick

is well-known today.

>> Some of the greatest masters

of the Early Renaissance,

such as Duccio,

Piero della Francesca,

were bought because of

Helen Clay Frick, and some of

our signature paintings,

our great Ingres portrait of

the "Comtesse d'Haussonville,"

one of the greatest paintings

of the 19th Century in France,

was acquired thanks to Helen.

>> She really had a very

enlightened view of how

The Collection should develop.

She actually expanded the basis

of The Frick Collection's scope

in types of art it collected

quite significantly.

>> The crown jewel of Helen's

contribution was

the Frick Art Reference Library,

a notable institution that

changed the face of art

scholarship in America.

>> One of the great aspects

of The Frick Collection

is the scholarship that

surrounds everything that we do,

and that's possible because

we have one of the top-five

art-reference libraries

in the world.

>> This internationally renowned

library first began as Helen's

personal project.

For years she had studied

and cataloged the history

of ownership, or provenance,

of the pieces in her father's

collection.

As a part of her research,

she commissioned a unique

collection of photographs

of paintings from around

the world.

>> Helen really had an

extraordinary vision,

and as we remind people,

photography in the 1920s

was cutting-edge technology,

and it was incredibly important

and new for art historians

to have the luxury of looking

at photographs of works of art.

>> The formal library that

stands today opened in

conjunction with the collection

in 1935 and was led by Helen

for nearly 50 years until

shortly before her death

in 1984.

The library is home to about

1.2 million photographs

of works of art and over 100,000

auction catalogs.

These items help curators

trace a piece's lineage.

>> The usage splits three ways,

roughly what I call the trade --

the Sotheby's, Christie's

dealers -- a third are academic,

and a third is the general

public.

>> During World War II,

the library even served

as headquarters of a daring

operation to preserve important

monuments in war-torn Europe.

>> The only time that this

library's ever been closed

was in 1943 when Miss Frick

decided that she wanted to help

the war effort to stop

the damage to cultural objects

in Europe.

This very room was used

for the preparation of these

maps that would stop bombers

and artillery in the invasions

of Italy or France.

The bulk of the Monuments Men

maps were -- 700 of them were

made in this library

and printed by the U.S. Army.

This was used again later on

in terms of cultural restitution

when people were looking

for looted items, as well.

>> The library carries Helen's

passion for scholarship

into the 21st Century

by making its digitized archive

available online.

The collection itself offers

a virtual tour of the mansion

to digital visitors worldwide.

>> One of the interesting things

about running a house museum

is that it's a house,

and it has been adapted

over the years to the needs

of a contemporary audience.

From the time that it opened

in 1935, The Frick has always

needed more space.

>> The Frick underwent

renovations in 1977 and 2011

and considered expanding again

in 2014 into the gated garden,

but plans were halted

due to public concerns.

>> A lot of people love gardens,

and we heard them and have

withdrawn plans to build

on that site, so now in

the current plan, we're looking

at existing space underground

and out of the back of

the library.

>> As The Frick continues

to navigate its growth,

it must also preserve

the permanent collection.

>> We're responsible for

the conservation treatment

and preventative care

of The Collection.

We have a longstanding

relationship with

the Metropolitan Museum

for the treatment and study

of our paintings collection,

but the paintings actually

only make up about 10% to 15%

of the collection.

So we look after all

the sculpture and decorative

arts.

>> Decorative arts like this

17th Century clock with

delicate, automated features.

>> The environment,

the humidity, and temperature

are also very problematic

for a number of objects.

A panel painting like our great

Bellini will expand and contract

if the humidity swings,

so we work closely with

the Engineering Department

to assure that we have a very

stable environment.

The top concern for our

department is to see that this

collection is handed on down

to the next generation

in a very stable and

well-preserved state.

♪♪

>> This dedication to

scholarship and access

is amplified by The Frick's

Education Program.

>> The Education Program

is very much at the heart

of The Frick Collection.

It serves many different

populations from schoolchildren

ages 10 and above

to connoisseurs and experts.

>> The Frick Collection

hosts a range of events,

including tours,

sketching nights,

special exhibitions,

and lectures where curators

share their research with

the public.

>> The critical importance

of arts education is that

experience with works of art

connects us to our humanity.

When students come to these

programs where we look at maybe

one work of art for an hour,

which is at the core of our

Education Department that you

should have this slow look,

this deep engagement,

we're working toward

the visitors having an

experience where the rest

of the world falls away

and the beauty of the artwork

comes forward into their lives.

When they leave The Frick,

if they say, "Now I know how

to look at a work of art,"

then we know we've done

our work.

>> Close to 25,000 people

participate in these

education programs each year.

The mission is to reach as wide

an audience as possible.

>> We started programming

for Free Fridays where every

first Friday of the month

we get thousands of people,

many of whom, almost 50%

every time, are first-time

visitors.

>> Among these new visitors

are the participants of

a high school storytelling

program.

>> The Ghetto Film School serves

a South Bronx high school,

and groups of 10 and 20

honor students from this program

come to The Frick.

Over the course of a year,

they take courses with our

curators in the galleries,

and at the end, they're asked

to produce a film about a work

of art in The Frick.

>> And action.

>> Coming to all these classes,

actually getting to learn

where these paintings come from,

who made them, and what they

really meant, it gave me

a deeper insight of what art

really is.

>> While celebrating the past,

The Frick Collection looks

towards the future.

>> I'm always very proud

when people think that nothing

has ever changed in the house

since Mr. Frick died.

In fact, a huge amount has

changed, but it all feels right,

and it's all part of the spirit,

and going forward, that's always

our intention -- to keep

the house as faithful as we can

to his vision and his idea.

♪♪

>> Set in motion by Henry,

and carried on by Helen,

The Collection tells the story

of unprecedented philanthropy

and unmatched quality.

Part of the past, present,

and future of New York,

The Frick will always provide

an oasis within this bustling

city.

>> You are pulled out in a kind

of a magical way out of the din

of the daily life of

New York City.

>> One of the things that

The Frick Collection does best

is to draw people in

through the act of looking,

through quiet conversation,

and that keeps people coming

back.

>> Coming back time and again

to this intimate space

of artistic excellence

and contemplation --

exactly what the museum's

founder intended.

>> I think that the old masters

have important lessons

for the present, and so someone

who comes to The Frick becomes

versed in the study

and the contemplation

of the old masters,

and if that infuses their life,

then I feel we've been

successful, and that person

has understood what The Frick

is about.

♪♪

>> A celebrated jewel

of New York City,

The Frick Collection

will continue to inspire

for generations to come.

♪♪

♪♪

This program was made possible

by...

The Jerome L. Greene Foundation.

♪♪

♪♪

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