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The Smithsonian's Freer Gallery of Art and the neighboring Arthur M. Sackler Gallery are best known as museums of Asian art. However, the Freer also houses a collection of 19th- and early 20th-century American art, including the world's largest number of works by James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903).
On Feb. 23, the Freer Gallery of Art will present "Surface Beauty: American Art and Freer's Aesthetic Vision," an exhibition of paintings by Dwight Tryon (1849–1925) and Thomas Dewing (1851-1938), as well as Pewabic pottery made in Detroit. The exhibition will complement another reinstallation of American art opening simultaneously at the Freer, "Freer & Whistler: Points of Contact." Both exhibitions will remain on long-term view.
This summer, a series of pastels by Tryon also will be featured alongside photographs by contemporary Japanese photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto in a precedent-setting exhibition entitled "Seascapse/Seamoods: Hiroshi Sugimoto and Dwight Tryon," which opens July 12 at the Sackler Gallery.
When Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919), the Detroit industrialist and founder of the Freer Gallery of Art, began to collect contemporary American paintings in the early 1890s, he concentrated on a small group of artists—most notably Dewing and Tryon—whose interest in surface beauty resonated with the work of Whistler, the expatriate American whose work had already attracted Freer's interest. By the turn of the century, Freer's focus would shift to Asia, but his interest in tonal, textured surfaces remained constant, allowing him to establish "points of contact" between his Asian and American collections. "Surface Beauty" includes 12 paintings and seven pieces of Pewabic pottery.
"Points of Contact" includes some 23 oil paintings, representing a choice selection from the more than 1,300 paintings, prints and drawings by Whistler in the Freer Gallery of Art. The works on view were chosen to exemplify both Freer's philosophy of collecting and Whistler's own self-conscious synthesis of Western and Asian artistic traditions. Highlights include a sequence of views of the Thames from Whistler's Chelsea residence in London; an ensemble of "Nocturnes" (Whistler's term for his paintings of the moonlit urban landscape); and a pair of full-length portraits, including the magnificent "Arrangement in Black: Portrait of F.R. Leyland," which depicts the patron of the renowned Peacock Room, now permanently on view in the Freer Gallery, adjacent to this exhibition.
The Freer Gallery of Art, located at 12th Street and Independence Avenue S.W., and the adjacent Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, located at 1050 Independence Ave. S.W., are on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. every day, except Dec. 25, and admission is free. The galleries are located near the Smithsonian Metrorail station on the Blue and Orange lines. For more information about the Freer and Sackler galleries and their exhibitions, programs and other events, the public is welcome to visit www.asia.si.edu. For general Smithsonian information, the public may call (202) 633-1000 or TTY (202) 633-5285.
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