The Freer Gallery of Art
This museum, admittedly smaller than some of the giants like the National Air and Space Museum, is a real find. Its home is an Italian Renaissance-style building originally designed to hold the National Museum of Fine Arts.
The Freer Gallery is named after its donor, Charles Lang Freer, a Detroit industrialist who collected Asian art and nineteenth- and twentieth-century American works. He donated 7,500 pieces of art to the gallery, as well as the money to build the gallery; another 20,000 pieces have been donated or acquired since 1923, making it one of the world's most extensive collections of ancient and modern Asian and Asian-inspired art.
Since the collection is so extensive, pieces are shown on a rotating schedule, but there are some permanent features on view. These include the largest collection of Whistler's paintings in the Western world; a wing on Japanese art that features some incredible painted wooden screens; Korean ceramics; Chinese paintings and ancient art; Buddhist art; South Asian art; Islamic art — Freer was especially fond of Persian painting from the sixteenth century; Egyptian glass; and the Luxury Arts of the Silk Route Empires exhibit. The Freer Gallery's museum shop offers many beautiful and unusual items from around the world. The kids will be enthralled with Chinese brush painting kits and origami kits, as well as haiku writing guides, books, and Asian music CDs. Adults will find jewelry, music, artwork, and Japanese tea items, as well as books about Asian art that are unique to this gift shop.The Peacock Room
The epitome of Freer's vision is the restored Peacock Room, designed and painted by James McNeill Whistler. This room is a one-of-a-kind visual experience that is spectacular to behold more than 100 years after it was painted. When the museum is open late on summer evenings, or in the early morning hours, you may be able to sit alone here for a while and take in the all-encompassing splendor of it.
The Peacock Room was once the dining room of one of Whistler's London patrons, who had an interior architect design a room to hold his Chinese porcelain collection and his prized Whistler painting,
Whistler had done all this interior design without his patron's permission, and when the patron was presented with the bill, he was not amused and refused to pay the full price. Whistler got back at him by painting a confrontational scene of two peacocks fighting, which he titled
The room was purchased by Freer in 1904 and dismantled and brought to his home. It was willed to the gallery in 1919. The Peacock Room has been restored twice since it was installed in the Freer, the most recent installation having revealed the blue, green, and gold peacock feather pattern on the ceiling and the gold paint on the wainscoting. It is indeed an inspired home for
The Peacock Room is so serene and peaceful that you might want to ask your spouse to take the kids for a run through the nearby Enid Haupt garden outside the Smithsonian Castle while you sit for a few quiet minutes, contemplating how this fabulous piece of art history made it intact into our national heritage.
The Freer Gallery is located on the Mall, accessible from the Smithsonian Metro station (Orange or Blue Line). It is open from 10