Sunday, May 19, 2013

Post Frieze Antidote: The Frick Collection

After the contemporary art overload at the fairs, galleries and auction houses the last couple weeks, it was a bit of fresh air to enjoy the Frick Collection's small but important Piero della Francesca exhibition.

Piero della Francesca
Piero della Francesca was a painter of the Early Renaissance. As testified by Giorgio Vasari in his Lives of the Artists, to contemporaries he was also known as a mathematician and geometer. Wikipedia
Born1415, Umbria
DiedOctober 12, 1492, Sansepolcro
PeriodItalian Renaissance

The Frick Collection in it's own right, filled with gems by Veronese, Boucher, Vermeer, Lucas Cranach the Elder, El Greco and many other Old Masters, is valuable. As a balance, or measuring stick for the contemporary art world, it is priceless.

The cute room filled with Boucher's paintings of flirtatious, happy, voluptuous, sensual characters in an abundant outdoor and indoor landscape may have been frowned upon in his time, but now give us a warm feeling when we look at them. The provenance alone tells us how important a work of art this is, originating as it did from the Marquise de Pompadour in the 18th Century.
François Boucher  (1703 - 1770)
The Four Seasons: Autumn, 1755
oil on canvas
22 1/4 x 28 3/4 in. (56.5 x 73 cm)
Henry Clay Frick Bequest
Accession number: 1916.1.14
Currently on View
West Vestibule (144)
Link to floorplan and Virtual Tour
Collections: Marquise de Pompadour. Inherited by her brother, the Marquis de Marigny et de Ménars, in 1764. His sale, February, 1782, Paris, Lot 11, sold for 1,402 livres to Vernier. Nicolas Beaujon, Paris. His sale, April 25, 1787, Paris, Lot 202, sold for 884 livres to Ridgway. Madame Ridgway sale, December 3, 1904, Galerie Georges Petit, Paris, Lots 4, 5, 6, 7, sold for 360,000 francs to Eugène Fischhof. E.R. Bacon, New York. Mrs. Virginia Bacon. Duveen. Frick, 1916.

Source: Paintings in The Frick Collection: French, Italian and Spanish. Volume II. New York: The Frick Collection, 1968.
Vermeer's "Girl Interrupted at Her Music" and "Officer and Laughing Girl"are two masterworks the likes of which any museum or collector worth its salt would like to get their hands on.

Johannes Vermeer  (1632 - 1675) 
Officer and Laughing Girl, c. 1657
oil on canvas (lined)
19 7/8 x 18 1/8 in. (50.5 x 46 cm) 
Henry Clay Frick Bequest
Accession number: 1911.1.127 
Currently on View
South Hall (141)
Veronese's towering monumental paintings, "Hercules Choice/The Choice Between Virtue and Vice" and "Wisdom and Strength", again remind us of the great trends throughout Western art history that have shaped our sensibilities and what we currently value. The Greco/Roman columns, the theatrical setting, the drapery, the twisting winding figures and the view behind them into the far distance, even the title of the work, gives us an idea of the perspective and some of the concerns with which artists at that time were dealing.

Paolo Veronese  (c. 1528 - 1588) 
Wisdom and Strength, c.1580
oil on canvas
84 1/2 x 65 3/4 in. (214.6 x 167 cm) 
Henry Clay Frick Bequest
Accession number: 1912.1.128 
Currently on View
West Gallery (131)

It would be great if our contemporary artists could look to art history to inform their work instead of looking to other contemporary work to do so.  A new art friend said this about a certain art review in the NY Times that gave a smidgen of credit to the current Koons exhibition at Zwirner: "...Anyone who really thinks any of these sculptures are actually important or remotely approaching great art is too steeped in the contemporary world to distinguish between ubiquitous work and good work."

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