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The Freer Gallery of Art


When the Freer Gallery opened to the public in 1923 it became the first art museum on the Smithsonian campus. The Freer story, however, began in 1906, when Charles Lang Freer gave his collection of Asian and American art to the nation, a gift he had proposed to President Theodore Roosevelt a year before. By exploring the differences in arts from around the world, the Freer Gallery of Art would unite, in Freer's own words, "modern work with masterpieces of certain periods of high civilization harmonious in spiritual suggestion..."

The museum contains multiple galleries enabling the visitor to view American paintings from the Aesthetic Movement of the late nineteenth century, as well as the arts of China, Egypt, India and the Himalayas, Japan, Korea, and the Islamic lands.

The Peacock Room
Whistler titled his creation, Harmony in Blue and Gold: The Peacock Room, though its early life seemed to have more to do with peacocks than with harmony. Originally a drawing room in the home of British shipping magnate Frederick R. Leyland, the Peacock Room featured Whistler’s painting Princess from the Land of Porcelain. The room, designed by architect Thomas Jeckyll, housed Leyland’s collection of Chinese blue and white porcelain. While Leyland was out of town, Whistler took it upon himself to redecorate the room, which left the owner a bit out of sorts, and put an end to their friendship.

After Leyland’s death Freer acquired the painting, and then the room, which he had installed in his Detroit home. It was subsequently installed in the museum, and has captivated visitors who have come to see the famous, if not infamous, room.

Freer Gallery of Art

History and building
Charles Lang Freer

Arthur M. Sackler Gallery

History and building
Arthur M. Sackler, Collector