The Frick Art Reference Library is a research institute consisting of a library and photoarchive that together serve as one of the world’s most complete resources for the documentation and visual study of works of art. The research materials include monographs, photographs, periodicals, pamphlets, and exhibition, collection, auction and dealers’ catalogs in both printed and digital formats. The collections focus on art of the Western tradition from the fourth to the mid-twentieth century with an emphasis on paintings, drawings, sculpture, and prints. Archival materials augment the research collections with documents pertaining to the history of art collecting and Henry Clay Frick’s collecting in particular. The Library contains over 228,000 book titles, 3,300 periodicals, and more than 100,000 auction catalogues.
The Frick Art Reference Library Photoarchive was established in 1920 by Helen Clay Frick, daughter of the Gilded-Age industrialist and art collector Henry Clay Frick. Inspired by the personal library of reproductions of Sir Robert Witt in London, the Photoarchive was founded to provide researchers in the United States with their first public repository of images of works of art. As early as 1922, Helen Clay Frick organized photographic expeditions to record significant and rarely reproduced works of art in the United States and Europe. The resulting collection of 55,000 original negatives, which in many cases document works of art that have subsequently been altered, lost, or destroyed, has become one of the Library's most treasured assets. Currently, the Photoarchive contains more than one million photographic reproductions which are accompanied to varying degrees by rich documentation about attribution, provenance, conservation, as well as exhibition and bibliographic histories. During its nearly 100 year history, the Photoarchive has collected and recorded thousands of unpublished opinions offered by visiting scholars about the works of art represented. The collection continues to grow through purchases and gifts from photographers, museums, scholars and dealers in the United States and Europe.