Known by his business partners as a cold-blooded and ruthless person, Frick had a poetic soul and a craving for beauty. One of his passions were hats. He was said by his daughter Helen to be “very particular about the hats and always expressed himself frankly,” often exclaiming to her, “that’s quite a hat you have on” or “where’s that hat going?” Frick’s passion for hats was reflected in Elizabeth, Lady Taylor, painted in 1780 by renowned English portrait painter Joshua Reynolds. The woman in the painting wears a hat that is decorated with ostrich plumes and blue satin ribbon. The ribbon is trimmed with loops of narrower blue ribbon that are stacked on the hair. The hat is almost like a building balanced on Lady Taylor’s head, and it is an outstanding part of the woman’s dress.
Lady Cecil Rice, ca. 1762 also painted by Joshua Reynolds, was among the last paintings that Frick purchased. He acquired it in 1918. Reynolds represented a woman with a young and tender face sitting in the nature landscape. The death of Frick’s five-year-old daughter, Martha, had an impact on Frick throughout his entire life. He hired sculptors and painters to recreate Martha in art and wearing a pansy, his daughter’s favorite flower. The memory of his child influenced Frick’s collecting and can be seen in such paintings as Lady Cecil Rice, which expresses a celebration of youth and innocence, as well as Emma, Lady Hamilton, painted by George Romney and which also reminded Frick of his daughter.