Media only: Brenda Kean Tabor: 202.357.4880 ext. 319
Barbara Kram: 202.357.4880 ext. 219
Public only: 202.357.2700

Whistler Paintings at the Freer

A long-term exhibition of major oil paintings by James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903) showing the evolution of his style between 1860 and 1900 will go on view at the Smithsonian’s Freer Gallery of Art (Jefferson Drive and 12th Street S.W.) on April 22.

Whistler was born in Massachusetts, but studied art in Paris where he was influenced by 17th century Dutch and Spanish art, and by the realism of the French artist Gustave Courbet. Whistler abandoned the realism of his earlier work in the 1860s. Influenced by Greek sculpture and Japanese prints, he became less concerned about accuracy of representation, concentrating instead on the organization of color and line into a formally satisfying and therefore beautiful whole.

The Freer Gallery of Art has the best and most complete collection of works by Whistler in the world. This exhibition brings together 10 of the most important, to form a compact survey of all major phases in Whistler’s career. The exhibition includes early realistic paintings such as “The Thames in Ice” (1860) and innovative decorative works such as “Variations in Flesh Colour and Green: The Balcony” (1864-1870), which show him borrowing ideas from Japanese wood-block prints. Also included are several of the moody night scenes Whistler called “nocturnes” that created a furor when he showed them in London in the 1870s. One of his most famous and powerful portraits, “Arrangement in Black: Portrait of F. R. Leyland” (1870-1873)-painted in the style of a royal portrait by the Spanish court painter Diego Rodriquez de Silva y Velázquez (1599-1660) is also on view. Leyland was Whistler’s most important patron, and it was for him that the artist designed the spectacular blue and green dining room known as “The Peacock Room,” which can be seen at the Freer.

Other paintings in the exhibition include:

  • “Harmony in Green and Rose: The Music Room”
  • “Symphony in Green and Violet”
  • “Nocturne in Blue and Gold: Valparaiso Bay”
  • “Symphony in Grey: Early Morning, Thames”
  • “Nocturne: Grey and Silver-Chelsea Embankment, Winter”
  • “Arrangement in Grey: Portrait of Master Stephen Manuel”
  • “Vert et Or: Le Raconteur (Green and Gold: The Storyteller)”

The Freer Gallery of Art (12th Street and Independence Avenue S.W.) and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery (1050 Independence Ave. S.W.) together form the national museum of Asian art for the United States. The Freer also houses a major collection of late 19th and early 20th-century American art. Hours are from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. every day except Christmas Day, Dec. 25, and admission is free. Public tours are offered daily. The galleries are located near the Smithsonian Metrorail station on the Blue and Orange lines. For more information, the public may call 202.357.2700 or TTY 202.357.1729, or visit the galleries’ Web site at