Van Gogh, Monet, Degas: The Mellon Collection of French Art at The Frick

Buying art is the same thing as falling in love. ~Nohra Haime

Thank goodness, Pittsburgh-born philanthropist Paul Mellon (1907-1999) and his wife, Rachel (Bunny) (1910-2014), fell in love with art many times, or we wouldn’t be enjoying the masterpieces now on display at The Frick Art Museum.

From March 17 through July 8 2018, The Frick is exhibiting Van Gogh, Monet, Degas: The Mellon Collection of French Art from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. It features more than 70 masterpieces that the Mellons collected. As the son of Andrew Mellon, who was friends with Henry Clay Frick, it is only fitting that this collection that Paul Mellon donated to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts be exhibited in Pittsburgh where both the Mellon and Frick families made their fortunes. Many of the works in the exhibit were on display in the Mellon’s homes. Many of the works have not been seen publicly in decades, and Pittsburgh is the only place where this collection has ever been exhibited. It may never tour again.

Paul Mellon loved horse racing and sailing, and Bunny was an avid gardener so much so that she was asked by First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy to redesign the White House Rose Garden. Forty artists are represented in the collection and reflect the Mellon’s passions as there are a number of pieces that are seascapes, floral still lifes or depict horses. In addition to Van Gogh, Monet, and Degas, there are pieces from Cezanne, Manet, Gauguin, Matisse, Renoir and Picasso among others and these works represent some of the finest in French art created from around 1820 to 1920.

Timed tickets are required for the exhibit and are $15. We attended on a Saturday, and while the museum was busy it was not packed as some museums can get during a special exhibit such as this. This allowed visitors to linger over the pieces. At 2 p.m. a docent led a free tour. We joined in on the tour about half way through, and if you have the chance, it’s well worth scheduling your visit to The Frick when there is a tour as she provided valuble information that enhanced the tour.

Admission also allows you into the other works on display at the museum and to wander around the grounds at The Frick. If you’d like to tour Clayton, the Frick family home, that requires an additional admission fee.

 

By Janice Palko

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