John Russell Pope And The Frick Collection’s Garden Court

September 10 2013, 5:57pm

The Henry Clay Frick House, Circa 1915. Image: The Museum Of The City Of New York. In 1913, American industrialist and art collector Henry Clay Frick commissioned Thomas Hastings of architectural firm Carrére and Hastings to build his grand mansion on the corner of Seventieth Street and Fifth Avenue in New York City.  Mr. Frick resided in the splendid Beaux-arts style home for only five years before his death in 1919. As stipulated in Henry’s will, his wife Adelaide and daughter Helen would continue living in the home until Adelaide’s death.  At that point, Mr. Frick wished the mansion to be converted into a museum “…for the use and benefit of all persons whomsoever, to the end that the same shall be a public gallery of art to which the entire public shall forever have access.” This was “a purpose which I have long cherished and which is very near to me,” Henry said. The Garden Court Under Construction In 1934. Image: The Frick Collection.

The architect chosen to transform the private residence into a space fit for public access was John Russell Pope.  The trustees of the Frick Foundation unanimously selected Pope for the job in April of 1932, only two years after he had designed Virginia Graham Fair Vanderbilt’s mansion here at 60 East 93rd Street. Pope would significantly expand the Frick building, adding the Oval Room, the East Gallery, the Music Room, and a perhaps one of the museums most treasured spaces – the Garden Court.

The Garden Court In 1935. Designed By John Russell Pope. Image: The Frick Collection. Once the mansions exterior courtyard, Pope’s Garden Court is enclosed with a glass, segmented vault roof, which creates a serene sunlit oasis in the center of the museum.  Ionic columns flank the courtyard which contains a central sunken pool, murmuring fountain and plant beds filled with tropical palms and ferns. Pope’s design for The Frick Collection’s Garden  Court was a precursor for his later work in The  National Gallery, where his sky lit garden court  yards are similarly surrounded by classical columns and symmetrical plant beds. In both museums, the garden courts serve as peaceful, contemplative spaces in which Pope’s  sensitivity and refinement as an architect is beautifully reflected. The East Garden At The National Gallery In Washington, D.C. Designed by John Russell Pope.