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April 9, 2011 – December 2015
Museum: Freer Gallery of Art
Location: Peacock Room, Gallery 12
For the first time, the Freer Gallery's renowned Peacock Room has been restored to its appearance in 1908, when museum founder Charles Lang Freer used it to organize and display more than 250 ceramics from all over Asia. The first special exhibition in this room since its conservation in 1993, The Peacock Room Comes to America highlights Freer's belief in "points of contact" between American and Asian art and underscores the relationship among the museum's diverse collections.
Originally designed by architect Thomas Jeckyll, the Peacock Room was once the dining room for British shipping magnate Frederick Leyland, who wanted a place to showcase his blue-and-white Chinese porcelain collection in his London home. When American artist James McNeill Whistler redecorated the room in 1876 as a "harmony in blue and gold," he too was inspired by the delicate patterns and vivid colors of the pots. Their slick surfaces did not appeal to Freer, however, who favored complex surface texture and subtly toned glazes. When Freer purchased the Peacock Room in 1904 and moved it from London to Detroit, he filled the shelves with pots he had collected from countries as diverse as Egypt, Iran, Japan, China, and Korea. Freer's ceramics are absorbing individually and as part of the full installation, which he thoughtfully designed to form a harmonized whole. After Freer's death (1854-1919), the Peacock Room was installed in the Freer Gallery of Art and is on permanent display.
Catalog: The Peacock Room Comes to America