Originally designed by architect Thomas Jeckyll, the Peacock Room was once the dining room in the London home of Frederick R. Leyland, a wealthy shipowner from Liverpool, England. Although the architect merely asked artist James McNeill Whistler (1834–1903) for advice about what color to paint the shutters and doors, Whistler transformed the entire room, much to the surprise of the room’s owner. Between 1876 and 1877, he enhanced the space with golden peacocks, painting every inch of the ceiling and walls to create an elegant setting in which Leyland could display his ceramic collection as well as Whistler’s painting The Princess from the Land of Porcelain. Leyland was far from pleased with the transformation—and with the artist’s requested fee—but he kept the room intact. Whistler never saw the Peacock Room again. Purchased by Charles Lang Freer in 1904 and installed in the Freer Gallery of Art after his death, the Peacock Room is on permanent display.
One afternoon per month, we open the shutters of the Peacock Room so you can see it in a whole new light. When the shutters of Whistler’s “harmony in blue and gold” are open, a flood of natural light turns the Peacock Room into a glowing jewel of blue, green, and gold tones. Details, colors, and textures are revealed in the sunlight, and a special filtering film on the windows minimizes fading.
Learn More About the Peacock Room
To learn more about the Peacock Room’s dynamic history, visit the Story of the Beautiful, a major online resource created by the Freer Gallery of Art and Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan. Digital recreations present the Peacock Room in Victorian London of the 1870s and in the United States in the early twentieth century. Learn more about the diverse Asian ceramics that Charles Lang Freer displayed on its shelves. Browse the collections and use the interactive timeline and map to discover chronological and geographical connections of cultural interchange.