Historical Resources at the Frick Art Reference Library
The J. Pierpont Morgan Collection of Drawings by Old Masters Formed by C. Fairfax Murray was privately printed in four lavishly illustrated, oversized volumes comprising many attractive reproductions.
A description of Landscape by American artist Ralph Albert Blakelock from the George A. Hearn auction catalogue. This piece sold for $17,500 to Bernet, according to a New York Times article dated February 28, 1918 (see previous slide). Annotations found in the copy held at the Frick Art Reference Library.
Hearn was one of the first to believe in the importance of collecting work by American artists. This catalogue includes three paintings by George Inness. The one listed here sold for much less than his Wood Gatherers, as is demonstrated in the news clipping a few slides before.
With a market glut resulting from hard times in Europe, newly wealthy Americans responded enthusiastically. Rich Americans were often portrayed as indiscriminate raiders in a race for status, but catalogues demonstrate a more nuanced milieu. Collectors were not only buying European masterworks but also works by distinguished and up-and-coming artists from America.
The Parrish Museum was opened by Samuel L. Parrish for the people of Southampton, New York, and surrounding communities, providing them access to important works of art from Europe. Many of these works were reproductions of famous statuary found in Italy, Paris, and the United States. In the 1950s, after Parrish's death, the Museum began collecting works by American artists, such as William Merritt Chase, who taught art classes in Eastern Long Island from 1891–1902.
Henry Clay Frick worked his way from a rural Mennonite community in Pennsylvania to become the prosperous co-owner of a coke business in Pittsburgh, where he lived with his wife, Adelaide. In 1905, he moved to New York, where he established himself among the preeminent art collectors of his age. In 1913, he began to build an impressive mansion on Fifth Avenue, largely to house his increasingly celebrated holdings. The Frick home and collection were opened to the public upon his wife's death.
Besides an art collector and the first American to purchase a Rodin sculpture, Yerkes was a visionary railway planner. When his unreliable trams ultimately destroyed his reputation in Chicago, where he had made his fortune, he moved to Fifth Avenue with his wife and budding art collection. He built a mansion for his mistress, Emilie Grigsby, two blocks away. He invested in the London railway system and became the chairman of the Underground Electric Railways Company, which gave the English “tube” its name.
Rita Lydig was a stylish New York socialite. She personally decorated her small Renaissance style home, designed by architect Stanford White, with Gothic objects, paintings, and sculpture. Botticelli's Venus was among the most magnificent paintings in her collection, which included works by Tintoretto, Mazo, and Andrea della Robbia.
Trained as an international banker, J.P. Morgan traveled back and forth to Europe often. In the early years of his career he began buying manuscripts and books. His vast collection grew as he constantly crossed the Atlantic. Upon his father's death and inheritance, his literary collecting took a grandiose turn: he spent roughly $60 million on art during the last two decades of his life.
James Wells Champney was an artist; a master of pastels and reproductions. He studied in Paris and made a name for himself back in the U.S., in Boston and New York. He was a member of many New York art clubs, the Century Club, the Players' Club, and the National Arts Club among them. Several of his works were exhibited at Knoedler's Gallery on Fifth Avenue.
Catharine Lorillard Wolfe was a philanthropist and art collector who purchased Grace Church in New York City to secure its foundation; established a home for incurables; and gifted a collection of shells and a library of conchology to the Museum of Natural History. Her collection of modern masters developed with her trips in the mid-1870s to Europe where she befriended some artists, including Barbizon school painter Cabanel, whom she commissioned to paint her full-length portrait, seen here. She bequeathed more than one hundred paintings to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1887, along with money for its upkeep. She was the first female subscriber and benefactor of the museum.
William Merritt Chase was an artist in the Impressionist school, a teacher, and an art collector. He opened the Chase School of Art in New York, 1896, today known as Parsons the New School for Design. The auction catalogue for his collection documents his holdings of European and American artists, masters and amateurs alike.
Besides being an art collector, George A. Hearn was also a New York dry goods merchant. He collected paintings by contemporary American artists such as Sargent and Inness, as well as Chinese porcelain and decorative art. He donated most of his collection to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Alonso Sanchez Coello's Portrait of Noblewoman (the Girl in Red) from the Rita Lydig collection catalogue. The painting was attributed to Coello at the date of this catalogue printing. A few years later, the attribution was dismissed and remains unknown today.
This online exhibition is made possible by a grant from METRO.
Questions and comments related to this exhibition can be submitted through the Frick Art Reference Library Ask a Question form.
MARC records for all of the items in the Documenting Art Collections in Gilded Age New York project are available to libraries worldwide.
Resources found in The Frick Collection and Library were prepared, scanned, and quality assessed by the Frick Art Reference Library Conservation Department and Digital Lab. Please go here to find all materials digitized for this project.
Painting of Paul Durand-Ruel by Auguste Rodin provided by Wikimedia.
Photograph of Josef Stransky by the Bain News Service courtesy Library of Congress.
Photograph of John Jacob Astor provided by Wikimedia.
Painting of Catharine Lorillard Wolfe by Alexandre Cabanal courtesy The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
For detailed information on the works presented in the video portion of this exhibition, please visit this page.
Design and production: Victoria Pilato
Text: Victoria Pilato and Deborah Kempe
Google Open Gallery, Frick team: Vivian Gill and Julie Ludwig
Frick.org Web: Vivian Gill, Valery Chen, and Amanda Orchanian
Video, Inge Reist: Gilded Age Collecting in New York, 2015:
Author and narrator: Inge Reist
Media Producer: Lisa Candage Goble
Associate Media Producer: Sean Troxell
Administrators: Deborah Kempe and Stephen Bury
Project coordinator: Victoria Pilato
Conservation and Digital Lab: Don Swanson
Conservation: Pinky Fung, Alex Bero, Melanie Martin, Harley Grieco, and Felix Esquivel
Digital Reformatting and Quality Assurance: Dean Smith and Kylie Schmitt
DAMS and Technical Support: Luciano Johnson
Systems Manager: Lily Pregill
Cataloging: Mark Bresnan, Rodica Tanjala Krauss, Cynthia Biber, Lily Pregill, and Victoria Pilato
Archives: Sally Brazil, Julie Ludwig, Susan Chore, and Shannon Morelli
Editor: Hilary Becker
METRO, Stephen Bury, Deborah Kempe, Inge Reist, Mark Bresnan, Julie Ludwig, Vivian Gill, Suz Massen, Frick Collection/FARL Archives, FARL Photoarchives, FARL Public Services, FARL Book Department, and the Frick Collection Technology & Digital Media Department.