Henry Clay Frick was a Pittsburgh industrial magnate who made his money in coal and steel. He built an impressive mansion in New York City that was designed, from its earliest planning, so that it could serve as an art museum after he died.
At his death in 1919, Frick bequeathed the house and most of his art collection to establish a gallery for “encouraging and developing the study of the fine arts.” His gifts included sculptures, prints, furniture, silver, rugs, Chinese porcelains, and more. The Frick Collection was both diverse and impressively deep. Its 131 paintings formed its core; there were eighteenth-century English portraits, van Dykes, Vermeers, and Rembrandts.
Along with his art, Frick left an endowment of $15 million for operation and upkeep. After his wife died in 1931, the home was transformed into the museum he had ordered. Thanks to investment growth of the endowment the collection was gradually expanded, and by 1995 it had grown to more than 1,100 paintings. Today it is considered one of the finest small collections in the world.
- The Frick Collection, History, frick.org/collection/history.htm