6. In another near brush with death, Frick nearly sailed on the doomed Titanic
A portrait of Frick’s wife, Adelaide, sits on the desk in the Fragonard Room
Adelaide Frick sprained her ankle in Italy in 1912, causing her husband to cancel their trip home on the Titanic. Had they perished on that disastrous voyage, we wouldn’t have any of The Frick Collection today.
He was an attentive, affectionate family man, so much so that in Henry Clay Frick: An Intimate Portrait his great-granddaughter Martha Frick Symington Sanger argues convincingly that family memories and tragedies, including the death of two children, influenced his choice of paintings. The young girl holding a doll in Renoir’s Mother and Children, for example, looks much like his late daughter Martha, who died at age six.
Building on Sanger’s argument but drawing different conclusions we might ask if Frick’s acquisition of violent industrial paintings, such as Francisco de Goya’s The Forge, did not reflect his ongoing obsession with the physically powerful men in Pittsburgh who had faced the terrible fires of his coke ovens, his protagonists who produced his inestimable wealth?