I’d be hard pressed to name a favorite museum in New York City — it would be like naming a favorite child (if you have over a hundred of them). But I can assure you that the Frick Collection would be hovering near the top of the list. It’s such an intimate and warm space, and although many other residences have been converted into museums or galleries, this one still feels like a home.
First, a little bit of history: the museum is named for Henry Clay Frick, a Pittsburgh industrialist who came into his fortune during the Gilded Age from his endeavors in coke and steel (he partnered with the likes of Andrew Carnegie and J.P. Morgan). Frick used his means to accumulate art, and when he moved to New York in 1905, a lot of it came with him. He eventually built his home where the Frick Collection currently stands on East 70th St with the intent of turning it into a museum upon his death.
After Frick’s passing in 1919, the original residence underwent an expansion to convert it into a suitable space for a museum, but many rooms are still preserved as they were when Frick and his family resided there. Of the many rooms, my favorite has always been the West Gallery, a grand rectangular room with coffered ceilings. Frick always intended for it to be a gallery, and it used to house a fireplace and a sofa from which the art could be enjoyed.
Within the West Gallery there are many stunning pieces including Mistress and Maid by Vermeer (of Girl in the Pearl Earring fame), which characteristic to his other work, displays a masterful use of light. But so does Georges de la Tour’s The Education of the Virgin Mary, which sits on the opposite wall and depicts a young Virgin Mary being taught to read by her mother, St. Ann. The child holds a candle, and the warmth of its light can be felt as you gaze upon the painting. The West Gallery also houses two Rembrandts — one is a self-portrait and the other is The Polish Rider, which is suspected to have been only partially painted by Rembrandt and then completed by an unknown assistant. Two stunning pieces by Veronese flank the opening to the next room, his richly colored work can also be found in museums like the National Gallery of London and the Louvre. This handful of paintings sit in just one room, and we’re barely scratching the surface of the treasures housed within these walls. It’s a testament to Frick’s impeccable taste, so by all means, take him up on his invitation to wander around the home he meticulously built.
Tip: Sundays are pay-what-you-wish from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm, but note that it can get a little bit crowded. Go early or you may find yourself in a line as the museum staff attempts to control the crowds. The audio guide is free or you can download the Frick Collection app and access it from there, along with an interactive map.
1 East 70th Street
Tuesday through Saturday: 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. (last tickets sold at 5:30)
Sundays: 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (last tickets sold at 4:30)
Pair it with:
Dessert at Ladurée
Right around the corner on Madison Avenue, you’ll find Ladurée’s patisserie. Ladurée is THE name in macarons, the delightful dessert made up of two meringue-based cookies with ganache, buttercream or jam filling in between. Established in 1862, the luxury French house offers fun flavors such as Rose Petal, Caramel with Salted Butter and Earl Gray Tea. But don’t overlook the non-macaron desserts — the French know how to do chocolate so the tarts are predictably decadent, while the airy mille-feuilles are light and delicious. If you happen to get lucky enough to snag a seat in their small parlor-style dining area, pick a selection of goodies and enjoy watching the Madison traffic go by.
864 Madison Ave
Monday to Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.