Henry Clay Frick (1849–1919) with his daughter, Helen Clay Frick (1888–1984)

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    Henry Clay Frick (1849–1919) with his daughter, Helen Clay Frick (1888–1984)
    by Edmund C. Tarbell (1862–1938)/ Oil on canvas, circa 1910
    National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

    An industrialist who helped build the world's largest coke and steel operations, Henry Clay Frick had recognized, by 1870, the growing needs of the expanding Pittsburgh steel mill industry for coke, a heat-producing fuel made from coal. In 1871, Frick borrowed money to organize a company to manufacture this solid gray substance, which is left after coal is heated and the gas and tar removed. Gradually Frick increased his holdings of coal, and by the age of thirty, he was already a millionaire. In 1889, the "coke king" merged his operations with those of Andrew Carnegie and became chairman of Carnegie Brothers and Company, which he reorganized into the world's largest coke and steel firm. A decade later Frick played a major role in the formation and direction of the United States Steel Corporation.

    A discriminating collector of paintings, bronzes, and enamels, Frick devoted much of his efforts during his later years to amassing art treasures. To house them he built, in 1913, an elegant mansion on New York's Fifth Avenue, which he filled with paintings by such masters as Rembrandt, Van Dyck, Rubens, and El Greco. Upon his death, he bequeathed to New York City both his home and a fund for establishing the Frick Collection within it. His daughter, Helen, served as trustee of the institution after her father's death, and further enhanced the family's legacy to art scholarship by building, next door to the museum, the invaluable Frick Art Reference Library, of which she was director for sixty-three years.

    Taking a Closer Look

    This double portrait of Henry Clay Frick and his daughter was painted around 1910 by Edmund C. Tarbell, then a widely sought-after artist for figural works and portraits. Does this portrait of Frick seem to convey him more as a tough-minded steel magnate with "get-out-of-my-way drive" or as a gentleman and connoisseur of the arts? Explain your choice.

    loliflickr and M I S C H E L L E added this photo to their favorites.

    1. Trish Mayo 51 months ago | reply

      Beautiful portrait love the light - I think there is a bit of both sides of his personality in this double portrait. He has a tough, no nosense look about him but with his daughter at his side I think we also glimpse the more personal side of the man. I also wonder what they are looking at - perhaps studying a work of art that they will eventually acquire for the collection. The Frick Collection is one of my favorite museums - not only is the collection filled with masterpieces but you get a sense of the people that lived there.

      Interesting information - I did not realize that Helen lived such a long and productive life.

    2. Maulleigh 51 months ago | reply

      I need to make it over there. I haven't been in 10 years. I went with my father when he visited!

      I think it's such a touching portrait. It's obvious they love each other very much. So much is made of romantic love but you don't see a lot about parents and older children.

    3. rasputina2 51 months ago | reply

      The Frick museum is one of my favorite places in the WORLD (I haven't seen that much of the world, frankly, but still). So he's my hero!

    4. Trish Mayo 51 months ago | reply

      Yes, it's an unusual portrait with a father and daughter but so beautiful. I try to visit the Frick every couple of years or if they have a special exhibit that I want to see.

    5. Tom_E_D 40 months ago | reply

      Read more about him at Wikipedia (and other sources) and you'll see that he was "vilified by the public and historians for his ruthlessness and lack of morality in business."

      I visited his mansion/museum in Pittsburgh and they attest to the statement in Wikipedia that he was the person who organised the armed Pinkerton agents that confronted the striking steel workers in 1892. That confrontation resulted in several deaths and required the state militia (8000 strong according to Wikipedia) be called to stop the battle.

      And like many "philanthopists," he didn't donate the bulk of his estate (including the building that became the museum and his art collection) until after his death: in effect no real sacrifice at all to himself personally.

    6. Tom_E_D 40 months ago | reply

      On a more positive note, I love your photostream. The photo of The Blue Veil above, for example, beautifully captures both the color and the texture of the painting: I can see the thickness of the yellow paint of the rim of the hat, which is great!

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