These two iconic art galleries set in the heart of the USA and the UK are both uniquely situated in the homes of the collectors. Henry Clay Frick housed his collection in his Gilded Age mansion on Fifth Avenue, New York, whereas The Wallace Collection was gathered by Richard Seymour-Conway, 4th Marquess of Hertford, who bequeathed it and Hertford House, Manchester Square, London, (where it is situated) to his illegitimate son Sir Richard Wallace.
1. Both galleries are set back from the lively hustle and bustle of the cities; providing quiet retreats for art lovers. There are no queues which take hours to go down like those to be found outside MOMA (Museum of Modern Art, NY) or The Portrait Gallery, London; you simply walk into an arty escape and, well, escape.
2. Whereas the crowning portraits of Mr Frick’s collection are the portraits of Thomas Cromwell and Thomas More (mischievously placed facing each other above the fire place), the Joshua Reynolds (first president of the Royal Academy of Art) exhibition within The Wallace Collection focuses on the portraits of more obscure actresses; often portraying them ‘in character’.
The showing of a collection in the home of the collector is a fantastic exhibitory technique
3. Within both collections, there is a focus on the walls themselves. A light, airy room in The Frick Collection boasts a floral wall display, intricately painted and covering the entire room. In a small room, set back from the main displays of The Wallace Collection, is an area completely covered in hand-painted tiles. Both rooms in both galleries provide a contrast to the rest of the gallery, and are features which remain unique to collections exhibited in houses.
4. In The Frick Collection; the whole exhibition was clearly on display. In The Wallace Collection, however, exhibition attendees were invited to lift up leather cloths in order to reveal original manuscripts and paintings (including those of Jesus’ arrival and Boethius’ exhibition of Consolations of Philosophy).
5. Both collections contained a real range of artistic artefacts. This may seem like an obvious one, but the ratio of furniture to porcelain, paintings to sculptures and enamels to clocks remained surprisingly similar from one side of the pond to the other.
In both collections, the wide selections of artworks from different ages and countries is enough to make any visitor forget which country they’re actually viewing the exhibition in. Swap The Frick and The Wallace Collection and a first-timer might not even notice. The showing of a collection in the home of the collector (or his illegitimate son) is a fantastic exhibitory technique which the USA and UK share, and I’d highly recommend a visit to either (or both!).