Whitney and the Frick.


The day started with a lovely bite to eat at nearby cafe “Ted & Honey” overlooking the Cobble Hill Park.

Then i got the subway uptown to check out the “The Whitney Museum of American Art”. Often referred to simply as “the Whitney”, its an art museum with a focus on 20th- and 21st-century American art. The Whitney places a particular emphasis on exhibiting the work of living artists for its collection as well as maintaining an extensive permanent collection containing many important pieces from the first half of the century. The museum’s Annual and Biennial exhibitions have long been a venue for younger and less well-known artists. Whilst i was there, it’s two key exhibitions were show casing the works of Charles Burchfield and Christian Marclay

Heat Waves in the Swamp: The paintings of Charles Burchfield

Although he lived next door to Niagara Falls, artist Charles Burchfield (1893–1967) chose to focus his nature-based art on the ground beneath his feet. Acclaimed by critics and known to a broad public audience during his lifetime, Burchfield is curiously under-appreciated today, i personally had never heard of him! Working almost exclusively in watercolor, Burchfield’s primary subject was landscape, often focusing on his immediate surroundings: his garden, the views from his windows, snow turning to slush, the sounds of insects and bells and vibrating telephone lines, deep ravines, sudden atmospheric changes, the experience of entering a forest at dusk, to name but a few.

Charles Burchfield painting

He often imbued these subjects with highly expressionistic light, creating at times a clear-eyed depiction of the world and, at other times, a unique mystical and visionary experience of nature.

Charles Burchfield, "An April Mood" 1946–55.

Christian Marclay: Festival

Marclay is known for his distinctive fusion of image and sound. Celebrated as a pioneer of turntablism, he transforms sound and music into visual and physical forms through performance, collage, sculpture, large-scale installations, photography, and video. This continually evolving exhibition explores Marclay’s approach to the world around him with a particular focus on his “graphic scores” for performance by musicians and vocalists.

still from a video by Artist/composer Christian Marclay (b. 1955)

and then i wandered past some wonders of their normal collection – presented in an exhibition featuring works from previous Biennials.

Jason Pollock "Number 18, 1951"

I’ve heard it many times but sitting infront of a Rothko is really an extremely moving experience – i can’t properly describe it, it’s almost like meditation i suppose. Very, very special.

Mark Rothko (1903–1970) "FOUR DARKS IN RED 1958

Then for a COMPLETE change of pace, i ventured to marvel at the incredible Frick Collection.

Henry Clay Frick (1849 – 1919) American industrialist and art patron

A visit to The Frick Collection evokes the splendor and tranquillity of a time gone by and at the same time testifies to how great art collections can still inspire viewers today. Housed in the New York mansion built by Henry Clay Frick (1849-1919), one of America’s most successful coke and steel industrialists, are masterpieces of Western painting, sculpture, and decorative art, displayed in a serene and intimate setting. Each of sixteen galleries offers a unique presentation of works of art arranged for the most part without regard to period or national origin, in the same spirit as Mr. Frick enjoyed the art he loved before he bequeathed it to the public.

Since Mr. Frick’s death in 1919, the Collection has expanded both its physical dimensions and its holdings. Approximately one third of the pictures have been acquired since then, and twice — in 1931-35 and 1977 — the building has been enlarged to better serve the public. At the Frick, visitors stroll from the airy, lighthearted Fragonard Room, named for that artist’s large wall paintings of The Progress of Love and furnished with exceptional eighteenth-century French furniture and Sèvres porcelain. When JP Morgan, (the former owner of the Fragonards) Frick acquired them and rebuilt the whole room, just for them so they would fit perfectly. And they do.

There is the more austere atmosphere of the Living Hall, filled with masterpieces by Holbein, Titian, El Greco, and Bellini. Passing through the Library, rich with Italian bronzes and Chinese porcelain vases, and poignant portraits

Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn (1606 - 1669) Self-Portrait, 1658

one arrives at Mr. Frick’s long West Gallery, hung with celebrated canvases including landscapes by Constable, Ruisdael, and Corot and portraits by Rembrandt and Velázquez. Vermeer’s Mistress and Maid, the last painting Mr. Frick bought, is one of three pictures by that artist in the Collection, while Piero della Francesca’s image of St. John the Evangelist, dominating the Enamel Room, is the only large painting by Piero in the United States. The East Gallery, adorned with works by Degas, Goya, Turner, Van Dyck, Claude Lorrain, Whistler, and others, usually concludes a visit to the galleries

and leads visitors to the serene space of the Garden Court, where they pause beneath the skylight, surrounded by greenery and the gentle sounds of the fountain.

Both the mansion and the works in it serve as a monument to one of America’s greatest art collectors. Built in 1913-14 from designs by the firm Carrère and Hastings, the house is set back from Fifth Avenue by an elevated garden punctuated by three magnificent magnolia trees.

The art of The Frick Collection has such superb examples of Old Masters, casually ordered English eighteenth-century portraits neighbour Dutch seventeenth-century works of art in view of Italian Renaissance paintings, Renaissance bronzes, Limoge enamels, Chinese porcelains, and French eighteenth-century furniture. It really is a cross section of supreme, wordly quality. I must say, this collection reminds me so much of my father and his collecting pursuits which has resulted in an ever expanding collection of art and antiques in our 19th c home. Two great men presenting wonderful examples of what i myself hope to emulate in the future. Who knows to what extent i’ll actually achieve this, but every success starts with a dream and why not aim high!

Here are some favourites.
Left: Tiziano Vecellio (1477/1490 – 1576) “Portrait of a Man in a Red Cap” 1516.
Right: Sir Anthony Van Dyck (1599 – 1641) “Frans Snyders” c.1620

Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775 - 1851) Fishing Boats Entering Calais Harbor, c. 1803

Left: James Abbott McNeill Whistler (1834 – 1903) Symphony in Flesh Colour and Pink: Portrait of Mrs Frances Leyland” 1871-1874″ Right:Agnolo di Cosimo di Mariano Bronzino (1503 – 1572) Lodovico Capponi, 1550-1555

Left Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841 – 1919) Mother and Children (La Promenade) , 1875-1876 Right: Thomas Gainsborough (1727 – 1788) “Mrs.Charles Hatchett” c.1786

Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas (1834 - 1917) The Rehearsal, 1878-1879

Claude-Oscar Monet (1840 - 1926) Vétheuil in Winter, 1878-1879

Eventually i left behind the Frick Collection ( only because it was closing time!) and made my way back to brooklyn, getting off at the Clarke St stop with the idea to walk down to the Promenade and watch the sunset. After i passed the park right near the Brooklyn Bridge,

i came across a horrible scene – the ambulance taking away a man who had been shot twice in the back with police sectioning off the crime scene and a group of concerned residents and passers by crowding around. I had heard of New Yorks notorious crime but considered it a decreasing thing of the past, and certainly didn’t expect to come across it myself – particularly in the wealthy Brooklyn Heights area.

Photograph from the Daily News of the man who was shot

Since 1991, the city has seen a continuous fifteen-year trend of decreasing crime. Starting in 2005, New York City actually achieved the lowest crime rate among the ten largest cities in the United States. Neighborhoods that were once considered dangerous are now much safer. Violent crime in the city has dropped by three quarters in the twelve years ending in 2005 with the murder rate at its lowest then level since 1963 with only 539 murders that year, for a murder rate of 6.58 per 100,000 people, compared to 2,245 murders in 1990.

When later i researched the crime to find out what had happened 10 minutes before i passed the area, the Daily News wesbite wrote “A 28-year-old man with a troubled past was…ambushed… just after 7 p.m.” “Sources said the victim, who has numerous prior arrests, was the intended target.” As with any other city or state, some neighborhoods in Brooklyn are safer than others. You have places like Park Slope, Clinton Hill, Brooklyn Heights, and Fort Greene, which are considered very secure. At the same time, certain areas like Bedford-Stuyvesant, East New York, and Bushwick and known for being more dangerous. But as i found out, crime isn’t just about location—it can happen anywhere. I can truly say my “street smarts” and self awareness have increased HUGELY since i first left Australia last December and i suppose all i can do is keep my wits about me at all times, staying alert and aware of my surroundings….

After that brush in with man-made violence, i was particularly appreciative of the beautiful sunset.

And to end on a nice light note : Where else but America would there be a Hamburger sunset!

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Whitney and the Frick.

  1. bagnidilucca

    I love The Frick. Thanks for the reminder.

  2. margaretbiggs

    Interesting day, beautiful paintings. Love 4 darks in red & the Frick collection &Mansion, also Turner’s fishing boats &Monet, different from his usual.Sorry you had to confront the shooting but that is how it is these days. The “hamburger sunset” made up for it ! With hugs Margoo xx

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