Henry Clay Frick:
Mourning Became the Art Collector

In this slide presentation, Ms. Sanger reveals how the combination of personal tragedy and a coinciding numinous event may have colored the choices Frick made when assembling his famous art collection. In 1887, unbeknownst to Frick and his wife, their two-year old daughter Martha ingested a pin. She suffered four years of harrowing illness and although the pin eventually exited her side and solved the mystery of her illness, Martha died days before her sixth birthday. The following summer – during the 1892 Homestead Steel Strike – an anarchist tried to murder Frick. According to Frick, his life was saved because the moment of the attack Martha appeared in a blinding apparition. The Frick's infant son, however, was not so lucky. Born during the strike, he died of internal bleeding shortly after the attack on Frick. As Ms. Sanger juxtaposes slides of archival photographs of Martha, the infant boy, and other individuals from Frick's past – as well as places and events from his past – with slides of the portrait subjects and landscapes in Frick's collection, she suggests an interesting possibility: although Frick was assembling a collection of unparalleled masterpieces, his collecting endeavor may also have been a mourning ritual. In this presentation, Ms. Sanger therefore offers a greater understanding of the psychology of art collecting as she also takes a penetrating look at Frick's emotional life and private world.

The Henry Clay Frick Houses:

Using slides of exquisite archival material, Ms. Sanger tells the behind-the-scenes story of the four houses Henry Clay Frick either built or renovated during the Golden Era of domestic architecture in America. The Houses include: high Victorian Clayton (now the Frick Art & Historical Center in Pittsburgh), purchased in 1882 when as a new millionaire Frick became Andrew Carnegie's partner; neo-Georgian Eagle Rock, a limestone and brick colossus built in 1904 as an answer to the Vanderbilt "cottages" in Newport, R.I. and used by the Fricks as a summer home; Beaux Arts One East Seventieth Street (now the Frick Collection), the steel tycoon's answer to the house museum concept initiated in America by his Bostonian friend Isabella Stewart Gardner; and neo-Georgian Clayton on Long Island (now the Nassau County Museum of Art), built in 1901 by Ogden Codman Jr., and Frick's gift to his daughter-in-law in 1918. Among the themes Ms. Sanger develops are the deeply personal reasons for the choices Frick made for each house and the way the Frick's used and enjoyed the houses. Frick's often-tumultuous relationship with such giants as architect Thomas Hastings and decorators Sir Charles Allom, Elsie de Wolfe, and Joseph Duveen also are noted as Ms. Sanger describes Frick's unceasing quest both to stay abreast of the rapidly changing fashion and to have only the best. In addition to offering commentary about Frick's personal relationship to various paintings and decorative objects from his collections, Ms. Sanger also illustrates how certain treasures, decorative ornament, and architectural motifs reflect Frick's life-long, unresolved grief over the deaths of his two children, five-year-old Martha in 1891 and infant Henry Clay Frick Jr. in 1892.

A Walk and Talk

Experience the Frick Collection in New York City, the Clayton house- museum at the Frick Art & Historical Center in Pittsburgh, and the Henry Clay Frick Birthplace in West Overton, Pa. (the only pre-Civil War Mennonite Village in tact in America today) with Martha Frick Sanger, a great-granddaughter of Henry Clay Frick. In giving you an intimate look into the lives of her ancestors, Ms. Sanger will provide an understanding of both the life that was lived in these houses and also the Frick family’s personal relationships with the paintings and decorative objects they collected.

 The Frick Collection Walk and Talk is limited to four people. Allow at least two hours.  Closed on Mondays. For further information contact Martha Frick Sanger

 The Clayton house-museum is limited to 12 people, and includes lunch or tea in the Café, the Antique Car and Carriage Museum, and the Frick Art Museum.  Allow a full day. Closed on Mondays. For further information contact Martha Frick Sanger

 The Henry Clay Frick Birthplace in West Overton, Pa. is one hour from the Clayton house-museum. Allow a half-day. For further information contact Martha Frick Sanger

Fact Checking

Martha Frick Sanger will read your manuscript for factual errors related to Frick family history. For further information contact Martha Frick Sanger

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