I don’t think there are many people who’d know about the Frick Collection when they visit New York as a tourist. It’s not on the usual tourist trails despite being just down the road from the more glamorous Met on Fifth Avenue. I have to confess the only reason I knew about it was because I read somewhere that the Goldfinch painting by Fabritius was on display there and as I’d read the Donna Tartt book all about it, I went to have a look.
Seems I wasn’t the only one. I went just before Christmas but I read today in the New York Times that by the time the show ends on Sunday over 235,000 people will have done the same. This is nearly double the visitor numbers they had for their last successful exhibition. Most people went to see Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring, which is impressive but doesn’t look that much like Scarlett Johansen. Ha ha. The very small painting of a goldfinch chained to a metal bracket should look cruel but it is just lovely. Set against a dramatic red wall, it stands out beautifully and looks quite different from each vantage point. I was quite taken with it. I even bought a postcard. My photo is rubbish, so I haven’t put it on here, but the New York Times link above shows it well.
The Frick Collection itself is quite a find. Henry Clay Frick commissioned the impressive mansion overlooking Fifth Avenue at the beginning of the 20th Century with a view to him living there and giving it to the city on his death. He housed his magnificent art collection there and today you trip over Rembrandt, Turner and all manner of well known artists as you walk around the austere interior. It’s a bit like being in Chatsworth House in Derbyshire (or the set of Downton Abbey), he was inspired by English stately homes and it shows.
One big difference with the Frick Collection is that they ban the under 10s. I was unimpressed by this initially but having visited it I can see why. There are no barriers anywhere, nothing to stop grubby hands and curious toddlers from leaving their mark. So for a child free zone and some respite from busy New York, take a look, even though the Dutch masters will be on their way back to the Netherlands very soon.