Collection of Frick Art Masterful

Article excerpt

A fortune made long ago in Pittsburgh goes marching on -- through elegant rooms with fabulous stuff on the walls in New York.

The Frick Collection at Fifth Avenue and 70th Street just passed its 75th anniversary of being open to the public. About 300,000 a year take Henry Clay Frick up on the invitation.

Frick (1849-1919) is a controversial benefactor. Born in Westmoreland County, a millionaire in coal and coke before he was 30, he was the Carnegie Steel partner who broke the Homestead Steel Strike of 1892. He called in armed guards that triggered a riot, leaving dead and wounded and a lifelong reputation blot.

But he also had a knack for buying art, in quality and quantity. His mansion near Central Park has to be one of the prime "small" museums of the world -- small meaning you won't be tired at the end.

In a couple of hours ($18 adults, $12 seniors), you can catch Rembrandt, Goya, Titian, Turner, Vermeer, and don't forget the house itself, a Gilded Age palace on priceless ground.

Frick built it just before World War I for $5 million and left $15 million for upkeep. His widow lived there until she died in 1931, and the public entered in 1935. The upkeep is tops.

"He wrote such an intelligent will," museum director Anne Poulet told the Wall Street Journal. Unlike Boston's Gardner and Philadelphia's Barnes museums, whose founders "wanted to control from beyond the grave," she said, Frick entrusted quality control to a board of "excellent people, not just family."

A visiting Pittsburgher can't help but pick up regional overtones among the masterworks. …