Frick Collection—the house built to be a museum

The Frick Museum, which houses a remarkable collection of art treasures, was originally build as a private residence of Henry Clay Frick, a Gilded Age industrialist and art collector. Armed with unbridled ambition, Henry Frick formed his own company by the age of 20. Vowing to himself that he would be a millionaire by the age of 30, he kept his word! The partnership he later formed with Scottish-born steel manufacturer Andrew Carnegie would go on to dominate the American steel industry. Frick eventually became one of the directors of the newly incorporated US Steel Corporation as well as the world’s largest individual railway stockholder.

As his fortunes amassed, Frick began acquiring the old masters on his trips to Europe, and went on to build an unparalleled collection of treasures by Rembrandt, El Greco, and Titian, among others. He intended to enjoy the collection privately in his own lifetime but leave it to the public after his passing.

In 1905, the 55-year-old Frick retired from his business endeavors. He moved to New York City with his family as well as his priceless art collection, which needed a permanent home. The Frick mansion—intended to serve as a house for his family and as a private gallery—was built in 1914 by Carrère and Hastings, the architectural firm responsible for designing the grandiose New York Public Library. Even among the magnificent private residences that lined Fifth Avenue, the Frick mansion stood out as one of the most opulent—It had private gardens both on the avenue front and in an interior courtyard!

Henry Frick lived in the mansion until his death in 1919. He left the house along with all the artworks to become a museum called The Frick Collection. He also allocated $15 million to be used for its maintenance.

The Frick Collection, housing 1,100 works of art from the Renaissance to the late-19th century by Bellini, Titian, El Greco, Holbein, Rembrandt, and Renoir (among others), is currently regarded as one of the world’s greatest privately owned museums. There are are only 36 existing works by Johannes Vermeer in the world. The Frick Collection owns three of them.

Many of the paintings are still displayed according to Frick’s design, giving it the very special feel of visiting a private home filled with rare masterpieces.

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