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Collections: American Art


Number of objects: more than 1,500
Historical range: 1855–1919
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Peacock Room

Charles Lang Freer, founder of the Freer Gallery of Art, was a Detroit businessman who began collecting American art in the 1880s. In 1890, he met the American painter James McNeill Whistler (1834–1903), whose work had been strongly influenced by Japanese prints and Chinese ceramics. Whistler encouraged Freer to expand his collections to include Asian art. Freer took his advice, amassing famous collections of both American and Asian Art, including the world's greatest collection of work by Whistler.

Highlights of the collection include:

  • An unparalleled collection of over 1,300 works by James McNeill Whistler
  • Harmony in Blue and Gold: The Peacock Room, an opulent London dining room painted by Whistler in 1876–77; the most famous object in the Freer Gallery
  • Comprehensive collections of work by three American artists influenced by Whistler and by Asian art: Thomas Wilmer Dewing (1851–1938), Abbott Handerson Thayer (1849–1921), and Dwight William Tryon (1849–1925)
  • Works by turn-of-the-century American artists 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)