Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Frick Collection

The Frick Collection, Vermeer, Constable
The Frick Collection is a relatively small museum in New York, housed in the former mansion of Henry Clay Frick, and displaying the artworks collected by him and his daughter, Helen Clay Frick.

The collection, though not as extensive as those of larger museums, has the density of an expensive fruitcake, with so many yummy masterpieces in such a small space that it’s mind-boggling. It includes major works by Vermeer, Rembrandt, Holbein, Whistler, Constable, Corot, David, Goya, Hals, Ingres, Renoir, Titian, Turner, Velázquez, Whistler and Van Eyck, among others.

For those who can’t get to the collection physically, the museum has databased much of the collection online, with Zoomable images of most works.

Their collections database search feature, though poorly organized and something of a drag to wade through, is usable once you understand how it works.

Choose Browse the Collections, then focus on a subject, like Paintings, focus on a region, say, Dutch, Flemish, German and Swiss, narrow down further, let’s say to Dutch, and then you’ll finally see some thumbnails of works.

In the initial display of a limited number of works, it’s easy to miss the tiny “next” button at the top of the interface (and not at the bottom of the list where you might expect it), but you may find it easier to select a particular work from the drop down menu.

If you click on an artist’s name instead of a specific work, you’re dropped on a page with a description of the artist, but no thumbnails of works. Just when you’re tempted to think that your search has returned no visible results, look for the linked (though not underlined) text saying “View objects by this artist”.

Then you will see thumbnails of viewable works. Click on the thumbnail or title of the work to view the main image, and then look for the link to the Zoomable image (and sometimes a selection of detail images).

The Zoomable image, like those of so many museums, is restrained in a box and partially obscured by the zooming thumbnail (wouldn’t want you to get away with a high res image, you naughty image thief, you), but the box is large enough to see detail in enough of an area to make the effort worthwhile.

Upkeep on the site has apparently been a low priority, as some items are missing or unviewable. (Hans Holbein’s portrait of Sir Thomas Moore is among them, alas. See my post on Hans Holbein the Younger.)

What is there, however, reflects the Frick’s superb collection. Many of the works are among the finest examples by the artists represented.

That includes three (count ‘em three) Vermeers, not far from the five in the nearby Metropolitan Museum (see my most recent post on Vermeer, with links to others).

For those who can get to the the collection in person, it’s worth noting that the usual $18 entry fee will be waived tomorrow, Thursday, December 17, 2010, in celebration of the 75th anniversary of the day the collection first opened its doors to the public.

In addition to the usual gems, there is currently an exhibition of 17th and 18th Century drawings, The Spanish Manner: Drawings from Ribera to Goya, on display until January 9, 2011.

3 thoughts on “The Frick Collection

  1. Susan Scheid

    You remind me of my first visit to New York City. Not wanting to miss anything, I went to every museum along the museum mile. This was, of course, overwhelming, but I will always remember the Frick from that: an oasis of calm beauty. It’s wonderful that some of this great collection is now available online

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