The Four Sylvan Sounds

Artist: Thomas Wilmer Dewing (1851-1938)
Historical period(s)
Oil on wood panels
H x W: 175.7 x 153 cm (69 3/16 x 60 1/4 in)
United States
Credit Line
Gift of Charles Lang Freer
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view

Screen (two-panel)

flute, music, United States, xylophone

From 1897 to 1919
Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919), purchased from Thomas Wilmer Dewing in 1897 [1]

From 1920
Freer Gallery of Art, gift of Charles Lang Freer in 1920 [2]


[1] Object file.

[2] The original deed of Charles Lang Freer's gift was signed in 1906. The collection was received in 1920 upon the completion of the Freer Gallery.

Previous Owner(s)

Thomas Wilmer Dewing (C.L. Freer source) 1851-1938
Charles Lang Freer 1854 - 1919


In 1896 Freer purchased his first two Japanese folding screens from Matsuki Bunkyō, a Japanese art dealer based in Boston. Later that same year, Thomas Dewing began to paint a pair of bifold screens, now known as The Four Sylvan Sounds. In creating the screens, Dewing combined an eclectic array of artistic sources within a decidedly Japanese format. The screens are even “read” from right to left, as is typically done with Japanese screens. According to the artist, the panels represent “the four forest notes—the Hermit Thrush, the sound of running water, the woodpecker, and the wind through the pine trees.”

Published References
  • Kathleen Pyne. Classical Figures: A Folding Screen by Thomas Dewing. vol. 59, no. 1 Detroit, 1981. p. 6.
  • Ideals of Beauty: Asian and American Art in the Freer and Sackler Galleries. Thames and Hudson World of Art London and Washington, 2010. pp. 20-21.
  • Susan Hobbs. Thomas Dewing in Cornish, 1885-1905. vol. XVII, no. 2 New York, Spring 1985. p. 23, fig. 21.
  • Susan Hobbs. The Art of Thomas Wilmer Dewing: Beauty Reconfigured. Exh. cat. Washington, 1996. p. 27, fig. 19.
  • Michael Komanecky. The Folding Image: Screens by Western Artists of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries. Exh. cat. New Haven, 1984. p. 104, fig. 115.
  • Mary Ellen Hayward. The Influence of the Classical Oriental Tradition. vol. 14, no. 2 Chicago, Summer 1979. pp. 107-42, fig. 22.
  • David Park Curry. Charles Lang Freer and American Art. vol. 118, no. 258, special issue., August 1983. pp. 168-79, pl. 11.
  • Thomas Lawton Linda Merrill. Freer: a legacy of art. Washington and New York, 1993. pp. 173-174, fig. 118.
  • Sarah Lea Burns. The Poetic Mode in American Paintings: George Fuller and Thomas Dewing. Ann Arbor, 1983. pp. 236-37, 269, 277, 278, 295-99, 429, fig. 55.
  • Royal Cortissoz. American Artist Canonized in the Freer Gallery. vol. LXXIV, November 1923. p. 543.
Collection Area(s)
American Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
Rights Statement

Copyright with museum

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