Ruffled Feathers: Creating Whistler’s Peacock Room

July 13, 2024 – January 31, 2027
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Composite image: Harmony in Blue and Gold: The Peacock Room (detail), James McNeill Whistler (1834–1903), United Kingdom, 1876–77, room installation; oil paint and gold leaf on canvas, leather, mosaic tile, glass, and wood, Gift of Charles Lang Freer, Freer Gallery of Art, F1904.61; Arrangement in Black: Portrait of F. R. Leyland (detail), James McNeill Whistler (1834–1903), United States, 1870–73, oil on canvas, Gift of Charles Lang Freer, Freer Gallery of Art, F1905.100a–b

Freer Gallery of Art
Jefferson Drive and 12th St., SW
Washington, DC

1st Floor, Gallery 11

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From the moment of its creation, the Peacock Room has been a personal, artistic, and cultural battleground. Created by artist James McNeill Whistler (1834–1903) for the London home of British businessman Frederick Leyland, the room has a dramatic and complex origin story that works in the Freer Gallery of Art collection help reveal. Situated next to the Peacock Room, Ruffled Feathers offers visitors a chance to explore this room’s tangled history and the personal and global forces that shaped it through paintings, works on paper, and decorative art.

Situating audiences in London during the room’s formation between 1874 and 1876, Ruffled Feathers offers a unique opportunity to see intimate and formal portraits Whistler created of the Leyland family, chronicling the personal relationships that flourished and fractured over the course of the room’s creation. Additional paintings and examples of design from Leyland’s home help audiences understand how Whistler incorporated motifs sourced from Asia throughout his designs and rethought his own approach to art and art-making.