Collection ID: TFC.0300.010

Collection context


Frick Collection.
As Organizing Director of The Frick Collection, Frederick Mortimer Clapp oversaw all aspects of the transformation of the Frick residence to a public art museum, The Frick Collection, as well as the construction of a new 13-story Frick Art Reference Library building. Reports, correspondence, memorandums, minutes, financial records, and summaries of informal meetings and telephone conversations document the project. Topics include architecture, construction, interior design, museum administration, and art installation.
3.0 Linear feet and (7 boxes)
Preferred citation:

The Frick Collection Records of the Organizing Director - Frederick Mortimer Clapp. The Frick Collection/Frick Art Reference Library Archives.


Scope and Content:

The Records of The Frick Collection Organizing Director - Frederick Mortimer Clapp consist of reports, correspondence, minutes, memos, budget projections and statements, and summaries of meetings and telephone conversations regarding the planning and details of the alterations and additions to The Frick Collection, and the construction of a new Frick Art Reference Library building. Also found here are Porter Garnett's manuscripts and Frederick Mortimer Clapp's revised final manuscripts for a small catalogue published in 1935 by The Frick Collection,The Frick Collection: Paintings: Summary Catalogue.

The bulk of the files span from 1931 to 1936. Preliminary planning for the alterations to the residence and construction of the Frick Art Reference Library are found in the files, including minutes from meetings of the Committee on Organization and Policy and the office of John Russell Pope; budget projections, expense statements and financial ledgers; correspondence with architect John Russell Pope and general contractor Marc Eidlitz & Son; and summaries of Mr. Clapp's meetings and telephone conversations with Board of Trustee members Helen Clay Frick, Childs Frick, Walker D. Hines, and John D. Rockefeller, Jr.

Topics covered include all aspects of the planning and construction of both The Frick Collection and Frick Art Reference Library, including selection of furnishings, finishes, and materials, as well as other design and interior decoration details; air conditioning and other mechanical concerns; storage vaults; insurance; and space requirements. Of note in the records is a report presenting four scenarios for converting the residence to a museum, including hand-drawn sketches of each floor; and initial renovation plans submitted by architects John Russell Pope and Delano & Aldrich.

One account book covers Frick Collection expenses from 1920-1925, and it is unclear if the book was created during that time, or if the entries were made retroactively. Documents in Notebook binders have been rehoused in folders.

Biographical / Historical:

The Frick Collection was founded by the industrialist and art collector, Henry Clay Frick (1849-1919), who bequeathed his home, furnishings and works of art to the public for the purpose of "establishing and maintaining a gallery of art." According to the terms of the will, probated in 1919, a Board of Trustees, selected by Mr. Frick, would form a corporation to be known as "The Frick Collection." The Trustees administered an endowment fund of fifteen million dollars, to be used for the maintenance, security, and eventual expansion of the house and growth of the art collection. The residence was to remain the home of Mrs. Adelaide Frick during her lifetime.

After Mrs. Frick's death in 1931, the Trustees appointed a Committee on Organization and Policy to make decisions regarding the plan to transform the residence into a public art gallery. Frederick Mortimer Clapp (1879-1969), Head of the Department of Fine Arts of the University of Pittsburgh, was asked to develop an initial plan and report back to the Committee. Pleased with the report, the Committee hired him as an adviser to the project and later appointed him Organizing Director. Mr. Clapp's association with The Frick Collection had begun in 1928, when he was asked to work on a catalogue of the Collection's art works, a project commissioned by Helen Clay Frick.

Mr. Clapp oversaw every aspect of the alterations and additions to The Frick Collection and the construction of a new Frick Art Reference Library building. Architects John Russell Pope and Delano & Aldrich both submitted plans for the project; Pope was selected in April, 1932. Clapp worked closely with the Trustees and Pope to create a public exhibition space that would retain the character of the former residence and preserve the existing architecture. He also oversaw the planning and erection of a new 13-story building for the Frick Art Reference Library, designed by John Russell Pope in a style harmonious with the existing architecture of the residence. Additions and alterations to the house included the Boucher Room, the Lecture Room, the Reception Hall, the Oval Room, the East Gallery, the Garden Court, a cloak room, and the conversion of the former private rooms of the Frick family on the second floor to offices. The new Frick Art Reference Library building was opened to readers on January 14, 1935, and on December 16 of the same year, The Frick Collection opened its doors to the public. In 1936 Frederick Mortimer Clapp became the Director of The Frick Collection, a position that he held until his retirement in 1951.

Frederick Mortimer Clapp, born in New York, received his master's degree from Yale University in 1910. Prior to receiving his master's degree, he taught Greek at City College and Elizabethan drama and Russian literature at the extension of the University of California. Mr. Clapp studied and traveled extensively in Europe, and in 1914 he received a doctorate degree in art from the University of Paris. He served as the head of the Department of Fine Arts of the University of Pittsburgh from 1926 to 1937. Among his publications are numerous volumes of poetry, and a catalogue raisonné of Pontormo's works. In 1933 he received a Doctorate of Laws degree from the University of Pittsburgh and was awarded the Townsend Harris Medal in 1942 by City College. Frederick Mortimer Clapp's professional memberships included the Association of Art Museum Directors, a Socio dell'Accademia di San Luca of Rome, and fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. He died in New York City on December 15, 1969.

Processing information:

Arranged and described by Marcia Bassett, December 2002, with funding from a Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation Grant, 2001; Susan Chore, 2010.


The Records of the Organizing Director - Frederick Mortimer Clapp files are organized in four series:

Series I: Notebooks, 1931-1936

Series II: Account Books, 1920-1937

Series III: Diaries, 1932-1937

Series IV: Small Catalogue, 1934-1935

Rules or conventions:
Describing Archives: A Content Standard



These records are open for research under the conditions of The Frick Collection/Frick Art Reference Library Archives access policy. Contact the Archives Department for further information at


The Frick Collection Records of the Organizing Director - Frederick Mortimer Clapp. The Frick Collection/Frick Art Reference Library Archives.

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