|Media only: Brenda Kean Tabor, 202.633.0523
Rebecca Fahy, 202.633.0521
Public only: 202.633.1000
Exhibition dates: August 13, 2005–September 17, 2006
July 14, 2005
Freer left school at an early age, was a self-made millionaire and self-educated art connoisseur. Though he was the close friend in later life of Freer Gallery benefactress Agnes Meyer, the forthright, intellectual wife of Washington Post publisher and financier Eugene Meyer, Freer once said that the “modern American woman, with her fancies of independence, rights, wrongs, extravagances, dress and other diabolical tendencies, is startling all sensible people—both male and female, around the world.” Freer was nevertheless drawn to female likenesses, which might have provided a comfortably distanced vision of feminine beauty.
Feminine beauty had become a symbol of American culture during the Gilded Age and was a common subject for artists in Freer’s time, but each of the men whose works are on view had a different approach to their subject that had special appeal to Freer. Whistler’s works, which often fused newly discovered Japanese imagery with Western themes, were ultimately arrangements in line and color. Dewing created self-described “presences” or “decorations” that evoked a particular sensibility. Thayer’s female figures transmitted a classical monumentality that was compared by a contemporary to “the heroic dignity of the Roman matron legend.” These oils, which sometimes echoed the old masters, provided an emotional link to the greatness of the past. For Freer, these images of the artist’s models, mistresses and family—many of whom he knew personally or whose life stories were familiar—were ultimately artistic expressions with their own inherent aesthetic value.
Among the works on view are:
The Freer Gallery of Art (12th Street and Independence Avenue S.W.) and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery (1050 Independence Ave. S.W.) are located near the Smithsonian Metrorail station on the Blue and Orange lines. For more information, the public may call (202) 633-1000 or TTY (202) 357-1729, or visit the exhibitions section of the galleries’ website.