Freer Gallery of Art

Last updated
Freer Gallery of Art
Established1923
Location1050 Independence Avenue, Washington, D.C.
Coordinates 38°53′17″N77°01′39″W / 38.888135°N 77.02739°W / 38.888135; -77.02739
DirectorChase F. Robinson
Public transit access WMATA Metro Logo.svg              Smithsonian
Website www.asia.si.edu
Freer Gallery Of Art
Freer Gallery.jpg
Front entrance to the Freer Gallery of Art
Built1923
ArchitectPlatt, Charles A.
Architectural styleLate 19th And 20th Century Revivals, Florentine Renaissance
NRHP reference # 69000295 [1]
Added to NRHPJune 23, 1969

The Freer Gallery of Art is an art museum of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. focusing on Asian art. The Freer and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery together form the Smithsonian's national museums of Asian art in the United States. The Freer and Sackler galleries house the largest Asian art research library in the country and contain art from East Asia, South Asia, Southeast Asia, the Islamic world, the ancient Near East, and ancient Egypt, as well as a significant collection of American art.

Art museum building or space for the exhibition of art

An art museum or art gallery is a building or space for the display of art, usually from the museum's own collection. It might be in public or private ownership and may be accessible to all or have restrictions in place. Although primarily concerned with visual art, art galleries are often used as a venue for other cultural exchanges and artistic activities, such as performance arts, music concerts, or poetry readings. Art museums also frequently host themed temporary exhibitions which often include items on loan from other collections.

Smithsonian Institution Group of museums and research centers administered by the United States government

The Smithsonian Institution, founded on August 10, 1846 "for the increase and diffusion of knowledge," is a group of museums and research centers administered by the Government of the United States. The institution is named after its founding donor, British scientist James Smithson. Originally organized as the "United States National Museum," that name ceased to exist as an administrative entity in 1967.

Washington, D.C. Capital of the United States

Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington or D.C., is the capital of the United States. Founded after the American Revolution as the seat of government of the newly independent country, Washington was named after George Washington, first President of the United States and Founding Father. As the seat of the United States federal government and several international organizations, Washington is an important world political capital. The city is also one of the most visited cities in the world, with more than 20 million tourists annually.

Contents

The gallery is located on the south side of the National Mall in Washington, D.C., contiguous with the Sackler Gallery. The museum is open 364 days a year (being closed on Christmas), and is administered by a single staff with the Sackler Gallery. The galleries are among the most visited art museums in the world.

National Mall national park in Washington, D.C.

The National Mall is a landscaped park within the National Mall and Memorial Parks, an official unit of the United States National Park System. It is located near the downtown area of Washington, D.C., the capital city of the United States, and is administered by the National Park Service (NPS) of the United States Department of the Interior.

Christmas holiday originating in Christianity, usually celebrated on December 25 (in the Gregorian or Julian calendars)

Christmas is an annual festival, commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ, observed primarily on December 25 as a religious and cultural celebration among billions of people around the world. A feast central to the Christian liturgical year, it is preceded by the season of Advent or the Nativity Fast and initiates the season of Christmastide, which historically in the West lasts twelve days and culminates on Twelfth Night; in some traditions, Christmastide includes an octave. Christmas Day is a public holiday in many of the world's nations, is celebrated religiously by a majority of Christians, as well as culturally by many non-Christians, and forms an integral part of the holiday season centered around it.

The Freer houses over 26,000 objects spanning 6,000 years of history from the Neolithic to modern eras. The collections include ancient Egyptian stone sculpture and wooden objects, ancient Near Eastern ceramics and metalware, Chinese paintings and ceramics, Korean pottery and porcelain, Japanese folding screens, Persian manuscripts, and Buddhist sculpture. In addition to Asian art, the Freer also contains the famous Harmony in Blue and Gold: The Peacock Room (better known as The Peacock Room) by American artist James McNeill Whistler which serves as the centerpiece to the Freer's American art collection.

The Neolithic, the final division of the Stone Age, began about 12,000 years ago when the first development of farming appeared in the Epipalaeolithic Near East, and later in other parts of the world. The division lasted until the transitional period of the Chalcolithic from about 6,500 years ago, marked by the development of metallurgy, leading up to the Bronze Age and Iron Age. In Northern Europe, the Neolithic lasted until about 1700 BC, while in China it extended until 1200 BC. Other parts of the world remained broadly in the Neolithic stage of development, although this term may not be used, until European contact.

Modern art Artistic works produced during the period extending roughly from the 1860s to the 1970s

Modern art includes artistic work produced during the period extending roughly from the 1860s to the 1970s, and denotes the styles and philosophy of the art produced during that era. The term is usually associated with art in which the traditions of the past have been thrown aside in a spirit of experimentation. Modern artists experimented with new ways of seeing and with fresh ideas about the nature of materials and functions of art. A tendency away from the narrative, which was characteristic for the traditional arts, toward abstraction is characteristic of much modern art. More recent artistic production is often called contemporary art or postmodern art.

Chinese painting Artistic tradition

Chinese painting is one of the oldest continuous artistic traditions in the world. Painting in the traditional style is known today in Chinese as guóhuà, meaning "national" or "native painting", as opposed to Western styles of art which became popular in China in the 20th century. Traditional painting involves essentially the same techniques as calligraphy and is done with a brush dipped in black ink or coloured pigments; oils are not used. As with calligraphy, the most popular materials on which paintings are made are paper and silk. The finished work can be mounted on scrolls, such as hanging scrolls or handscrolls. Traditional painting can also be done on album sheets, walls, lacquerware, folding screens, and other media.

The museum offers free tours to the public and presents a full schedule events for the public including films, lectures, symposia, concerts, performances, and discussions. Over 11,000 objects from the Freer|Sackler collections are fully searchable and available online. [2] The Freer was also featured in the Google Art Project, which offers online viewers close-up views of selected items from the Freer. [3]

History

Entrance to the Freer Gallery of Art Freer Gallery 1.jpg
Entrance to the Freer Gallery of Art

Founding

The gallery was founded by Detroit railroad-car manufacturer and self-taught connoisseur Charles Lang Freer. He owned the largest collection of works by American artist James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903) and became a patron and friend of the famously irascible artist. Whistler made it very clear to Freer that if he helped him to build the premier Whistler collection, then that collection would have to be displayed in a city where tourists went. [4]

Detroit Largest city in Michigan

Detroit is the largest and most populous city in the U.S. state of Michigan, the largest United States city on the United States–Canada border, and the seat of Wayne County. The municipality of Detroit had a 2017 estimated population of 673,104, making it the 23rd-most populous city in the United States. The metropolitan area, known as Metro Detroit, is home to 4.3 million people, making it the second-largest in the Midwest after the Chicago metropolitan area. Regarded as a major cultural center, Detroit is known for its contributions to music and as a repository for art, architecture and design.

Charles Lang Freer American art collector

Charles Lang Freer was an American industrialist, art collector, and patron. He is known for his large collection of East Asian, American, and Middle Eastern Art. In 1906, Freer donated his extensive collection to the Smithsonian Institution, making him the first American to bequeath his private collection to the United States. To house the objects, including The Peacock Room by James McNeill Whistler, Freer funded the construction of the Freer Gallery of Art in Washington, DC.

In 1908, Charles Moore, a former aide to Michigan United States Senator, James McMillin and the chairman of the United States Commission of Fine Arts, moved from Washington, D.C., to Detroit. Moore became friends with Freer, who was director of the Michigan Car Company, and persuaded Freer to permanently exhibit his 8,000-piece collection of Oriental art in Washington, D.C. Before then, Freer informally proposed to President Theodore Roosevelt that he give to the nation his art collection, funds to construct a building, and an endowment fund to provide for the study and acquisition of "very fine examples of Oriental, Egyptian, and Near Eastern fine arts." [5]

United States Commission of Fine Arts independent agency of the federal government of the United States

The U.S. Commission of Fine Arts (CFA) is an independent agency of the federal government of the United States, and was established in 1910. The CFA has review authority over the "design and aesthetics" of all construction within Washington, D.C. In accordance with the Old Georgetown Act, the CFA appoints the Old Georgetown Board. The Old Georgetown Board has design review authority over all semipublic and private structures within the boundaries the Georgetown Historic District. The CFA was granted approval authority by the Shipstead-Luce Act over the design and height of public and private buildings which front or abut the grounds of the United States Capitol, the grounds of the White House, Pennsylvania Avenue NW extending from the Capitol to the White House, Lafayette Square, Rock Creek Park, the National Zoological Park, the Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway, Potomac Park, and the National Mall and its constituent parks.

The Michigan Car Company was a railroad rolling stock manufacturer located in Detroit, Michigan.

Travelers impressed by the beauty of the National Mall in Washington, D.C., can thank three Detroiters for their role in creating it. The mall was the brainchild of James McMillan, a Michigan United States senator and former business competitor to Freer. Charles Freer for his enormous donation to the Smithsonian, and Moore for carrying out the Washington mall concept. The Freer gift was accepted on behalf of the government by the Smithsonian Board of Regents in 1906. Freer's will, however, contained certain requirements that only objects from the permanent collection could be exhibited in the gallery, and that none of the art could be exhibited elsewhere. Freer felt strongly that all of the museum's holding should be readily accessible to scholars at all times. In addition, Freer's bequest to the Smithsonian came with the proviso that he would execute full curatorial control over the collection until his death. The Smithsonian initially hesitated at the requirements but the intercession of President Theodore Roosevelt allowed for the project to proceed. The Freer Gallery possesses an autographed letter from Roosevelt inviting Freer to visit him at the White House, reflecting the personal interest Roosevelt showed in the development of the museum. Freer died before the art gallery was completed.

Construction and architecture

Construction of the gallery began in 1916 and was completed in 1921, after a delay due to World War I. [6] On May 9, 1923, the Freer Gallery of Art was opened to the public. Designed by American architect and landscape planner Charles A. Platt, the Freer is an Italian Renaissance-style building inspired by Freer's visits to palazzos in Italy. [7] It is reported that in a meeting with architect Charles Platt at the Plaza Hotel in New York City, Freer jotted down his ideas for a classical, well-proportioned building on a napkin. [8] The gallery is constructed primarily of granite: the exterior of the Freer is pink granite quarried in Milford, Massachusetts, the courtyard has a carnelian granite fountain and walls of unpolished Tennessee white marble. The gallery's interior walls are Indiana limestone, and the floors are polished Tennessee marble.

A major renovation of the building, which culminated in a grand reopening in 1993, greatly expanded storage and exhibition space by connecting the Freer and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery. With the addition of the connecting gallery, the Freer has 39,039 square feet of public space. The original structure designed by Platt remains intact, including the Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer Auditorium which serves as the venue for many public programs.

Current

After opening in 1923, the Freer served as the Smithsonian's first museum dedicated to the fine arts. [9] The Freer was also the first Smithsonian museum created from a private collector's bequest. Through the years, the collections have grown through gifts and purchases to nearly triple the size of Freer's original donation: nearly 18,000 works of Asian art have been added since Freer's death in 1919.

The Freer is now connected by an underground exhibition space to the neighboring Arthur M. Sackler Gallery. Although their collections are stored and exhibited separately, the two museums share a director, administration, and staff. The Freer closed for extensive renovations in January 2016 and reopened in October 2017. [10]

Exhibitions

Because one of the main conditions of Charles Lang Freer donation was that only items from his collection may be exhibited at the gallery, the Freer does not borrow from or lend out items to other institutions. However, due to the 26,000 objects in the gallery's collections, they are still able to present exhibitions internationally recognized for both depth and quality.

The Freer also has a number rotating/temporary exhibits.

American art at the Freer

The Peacock Room by Whistler The Peacock Room (2).jpg
The Peacock Room by Whistler

Freer began collecting American art in the 1880s. [8] In 1890, after meeting James Abbott McNeill Whistler, an American artist influenced by Japanese prints and Chinese ceramics, Freer began to expand his collections to include Asian art. He maintained his interest in American art, however, amassing a collection of over 1,300 works by Whistler, which is considered the world's finest.

One of the most well-known exhibits at the Freer is The Peacock Room , an opulent London dining room painted by Whistler in 1876–77. The room was designed for British shipping magnate F.R. Leyland [11] and is lavishly decorated with green and gold peacock motifs. Purchased by Freer in 1904 and installed in the Freer Gallery after his death, The Peacock Room is on permanent display.

The Freer also has works by Thomas Dewing (1851–1938), Dwight Tryon (1849–1925), Abbott Handerson Thayer (1849–1921), Childe Hassam (1859–1935), Winslow Homer (1836–1910), Augustus Saint-Gaudens (1848–1907), Willard Metcalf (1858–1925), John Singer Sargent (1856–1925), and John Twachtman (1853–1902). [12]

F|S Online

The Freer|Sackler provides several online resources for exploring the art and culture of Asia and its American art collections. Besides the collections objects viewable online, thousands of photographs, archeological diaries, maps, and archaeological squeezes (impressions of carvings) have been digitized and are used by researchers from around the world.

F|S Archives and Library

This earthenware dish from 9th century Abbasid Iraq is one of the many artifacts exhibited at the Freer Gallery. Dish from 9th century Iraq.jpg
This earthenware dish from 9th century Abbasid Iraq is one of the many artifacts exhibited at the Freer Gallery.

The Freer Sackler Archives [13] houses over 120 important manuscripts collections relevant to the study of America's encounter with Asian art and culture. The core collection is the personal papers of gallery founder Charles Lang Freer, which includes his purchase records, diaries, and personal correspondence with public figures such as artists, dealers and collectors. Freer's extensive correspondence with James McNeill Whistler forms one of the largest sources of primary documents about the American artist. Other significant collections in the Archives includes the papers (notebooks, letters, photography, squeezes) and personal objects of the German archaeologist Ernst Herzfeld (1879–1946), documenting his research at Samarra, Persepolis and Pasargadae. The papers of Carl Whiting Bishop [14] Dwight William Tryon, Myron Bement Smith, [15] Benjamin March [16] and Henri Vever [17] are also located at the Archives. The Archives also holds over 125,000 photographs of Asia dating from the 19th and early 20th centuries. Highlights of photographic holdings include the Henry and Nancy Rosin Collection of 19th century photography of Japan, [18] the 1903-1904 photographs of the Chinese Empress Dowager Cixi, and photographs of Iran by Antoin Sevruguin. [19]

The Freer|Sackler Library is the largest Asian art research library in the United States. Open to the public five days a week (except federal holidays) without appointment, the library collection consists of more than 86,000 volumes, including nearly 2,000 rare books. Half the volumes are written and catalogued in Asian languages. Originating from the collection of four thousand monographs, periodical issues, offprints, and sales catalogues that Charles Lang Freer donated to the Smithsonian Institution as part of his gift to the nation, the F|S Library maintains the highest standards for collecting materials an active program of purchases, gifts, and exchanges.

In July 1987 the library moved to its new home in the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery. Today it supports activities of both museums, such as collection development, exhibition planning, publications, and other scholarly and educational projects. Its published and unpublished resources—in the fields of Asian art and archaeology, conservation, painting, sculpture, architecture, drawings, prints, manuscripts, books, and photography—are available to museum staff, outside researchers, and the visiting public.

Public programs

The Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer Auditorium, named after American financier and publisher Eugene Meyer and journalist/social activist Agnes E. Meyer, is located in the Freer and provides a venue for a broad variety of free public programs. These programs include concerts of music and dance, lectures, chamber music, and dramatic presentations. It is also known for its film series, highlighting a wide variety of Asian cultures (including a Korean Film Festival and Iranian Film Festival).

Most recently, the museums began the series Asia After Dark, opening up the space for musicians, dancing, Asian cuisine, and other after-work adventures. The Freer and Sackler's 'We Stand With Japan' in 2011 hosted Steve Aoki. [20]

Free drop-in tours are available daily and guide visitors through both featured exhibitions and specific themes in both the Freer and Sackler galleries, and a wide range of public lectures provide in-depth experiences with prominent artists and scholars.

Conservation

Care of the collections began before the museum came into existence as Charles Lang Freer, the founder of the Freer Gallery of Art, hired Japanese painting restorers to care for his works and to prepare them for their eventual home as part of the Smithsonian Institution. In 1932, the Freer Gallery of Art hired a full-time Japanese restorer and established what was to become the East Asian Painting Conservation Studio. This facility remains one of the few in the United States that specializes in the conservation of Asian paintings. [6] The Technical Laboratory was established in 1951 when chemist Rutherford J. Gettens moved from the Fogg Museum at Harvard University to the Freer. The laboratory was the first Smithsonian facility devoted to the use of scientific methods for the study of works of art. Over the years, the work of the Technical Laboratory expanded to include objects, paper, and exhibits conservation. The Technical Laboratory and the East Asian Painting Conservation Studio merged in 1990 to create the Department of Conservation and Scientific Research for both the Freer and Sackler Galleries. [21]

The conservators in the Department of Conservation and Scientific Research care for and treat works of art in the collection and prepare them for exhibition. The department works to ensure long-term preservation and storage, safe handling, exhibition, and transport of artworks in the permanent collection, as well as those on loan. In addition, conservators are responsible for conducting technical examinations of objects already in the collection and those under consideration for acquisition. They also collaborate frequently with the department's scientists on technical and applied research. Training and professional outreach efforts are an integral part of the department's commitment to educating future conservators, museum professionals, and the public about conservation.

Scholarship

The Freer has had a long tradition in serving as a center for inquiry and advanced scholarship about Asia. The Freer not only presents a lectures and symposia to the public, it also copublishes the Ars Orientalis with the University of Michigan Department of History of Art. Ars Orientalis is a peer-reviewed annual volume of scholarly articles and occasional reviews of books on the art and archaeology of Asia, the ancient Near East, and the Islamic world. [22] [23]

The Freer and Sackler, along with the Metropolitan Center for Far Eastern Art Studies in Kyoto, Japan, presents the Shimada Prize for distinguished scholarship in the history of East Asian art. The award was established in 1992 in honor of Professor Shimada Shujiro, by the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery and by The Metropolitan Center for Far Eastern Art Studies in Kyoto, Japan. Several fellowships are also available to support graduate students and visiting scholars, including the Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship, Anne Van Biema Fellowship (Japanese Visual Arts), Iran Heritage Foundation (IHF) Fellowship (Persian art), Lunder Fellowship, J. S. Lee Memorial Fellowship (Chinese Art), Smithsonian Institution Fellowship, and the Freer Fellowship. [24]

Freer and Sackler curators are also involved in dozens of ongoing research projects, often with colleagues from institutions around the world. The results of their work can be seen in a variety of published formats, including exhibition catalogues, scholarly publications, and online publications. [25]

China

India

Egypt

Japan

Nepal

Persia

Korea

Syria

Kushan

See also

Related Research Articles

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References

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  5. Smithsonian Institution Archives
  6. 1 2 Smithsonian Institution Archives
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  21. Archived February 2, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
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